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US says wants to work with India on regional, global challenges

The United States has said that it wants to work with India to addres the regional and global challenges that no one country could solve.

'...the future of our relationship depends on more than strengthening bilateral ties and engagement. As India emerges as one of the world’s leading economic and political powers, the central question is how the United States and India can work together to address the regional and global challenges that no one country alone can solve," US Deputy Secretary of State James B Steinberg has said.

Mr Steinberg was speaking at a conference at the Brookings Institution here on Monday, shortly before Mr Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement and on Climate Change, addressed the gathering.

The senior US official paraphrased former US President Bill Clinton to say that the central question facing India in the coming years is how it defined its greatness as it took an increasingly prominent role in global affairs.

"In the past, the emergence of new powers placed enormous stress on the international system. Because power was seen as a zero sum game, the rise of new powers was viewed as inherent threat to the status quo. But in the twenty-first century, the emergence of India as strong, stable, democratic and outwardly looking global player with global interests has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of the international system and the security and well-being of all, in a positive sum game.

"For this reason, the real test of our relationship will be how we work together on the great common challenges of our era – strengthening the global trade and investment system, addressing transnational threats like nuclear weapons proliferation, terrorism and pandemic disease, and meeting the urgent danger posed by climate change.

"As great powers, together we have an obligation to help produce what we academics call 'global public goods', to pursue an enlightened version of self-interest that recognizes that individual nations will only thrive if we all thrive, and to build the institutions of cooperation needed to facilitate common efforts to meet shared challenges. Whether at the UN, the WTO, or the Conference on Disarmament, we both have a responsibility to eschew rhetoric in favor of forward looking, practical solutions to the great issues of our time," he said.

Mr Steinberg said US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Clinton were committed to expanding the opportunites to work together and the cooperation with India.

"As India approaches national elections in the coming months, we look forward to developing a comprehensive agenda – doing more bilaterally, regionally, and globally, across the full spectrum of economic, political and security challenges," he said.

The US official said the conference was taking place at a challenging time that brought great responsibilities and significant opportunities for both the US and India. He outlined in great detail how the two countries could build on their accomplishments of recent years to forge "a stronger, more comprehensive relationship to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

He spoke at length about how the relationship between the two countries had been a rapidly advancing trajectory for several years. He said then President Clinton had seized on the end of the Cold War and India’s rapid economic emergence and liberalization to lay the foundation for this transformation.

He also praised the efforts made by one of his predecessors, Strobe Talbott (who was present at the conference) into "addressing decades of suspicion and estrangement to set the stage for a new era in our bilateral relationship."

He said the Bush Administration built upon this legacy, with the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Deal – which he described as "a landmark achievement for both of our countries".

According to him, the agreement not only provides a concrete platform for economic and technological cooperation between the two countries, but also offers a basis for moving beyond one of the most serious barriers to their political cooperation – the status of India’s nuclear programme.

Mr Steinberg said that all this had also been made possible by the strong and growing ties between the people of the two countries.

"Indeed, it can be argued that our governments were late in catching up to the transformed relationship between our peoples. But now the stage is set to embark on what I might term the third stage of our rapprochement. As space faring nations, we know that the third stage is crucial to boosting us into orbit," he remarked.

While expressing satisfaction at the doubling of bilateral trade from $ 21 billion to $ 44 billion between 2004 and 2008, the US official said much more could be done in the future, such as negotiating a bilateral investment treaty, removing tariff and non-tariff trade barriers between the countries, improving enforcement of intellectual property rights, and opening avenues for the private sector to engage directly by loosening government restrictions and actively promoting trade in areas of mutual interest.

Mr Steinberg said there was potential for the two countries to work together to bridge the gap between India's vibrant middle class and its urban and rural poverty.

"The U.S. and India should leverage existing business and scientific community ties, seeking to establish public-private partnerships to catalyze technological advancements in the fields of education, energy, health, and agriculture that will improve the lives of average Indians, stimulate small and medium enterprises in India, and grow markets for U.S. goods and services," he said.

He felt energy was another fruitful avenue for bilateral cooperation. "In a country where 500 million people still lack access to electricity, the United States and India have enormous opportunities to collaborate on energy generation and infrastructure. The U.S. is committed to working directly with India as a robust partner on civilian nuclear energy. Our governments have taken some steps toward realization of the 1-2-3 Agreement, but we both need to do more, and we look forward to working with India to fulfill the promise of civilian nuclear energy cooperation," he said.

"On the security side, we have also taken important steps together, and have a good foundation on which to build. Our navies now exercise regularly together and the fruits of this cooperation were apparent in our contributions to tsunami relief in 2004. We are also opening up avenues to increase defense trade through strong advocacy for U.S. firms. We also need to conclude an agreement on End Use Monitoring, a Logistics Support Agreement and a communications agreement – and to work more closely together on counterterrorism and non-proliferation concerns," he said.

Mr Steinberg stressed that, together, the populations of the two countries were 1.4 billion strong. "And we can do so much together to advance our common interests. We should find ways to work the private sector into our government-to-government dialogues and use strong people to people ties to advance cooperation in education and science and technology, and to facilitate rural development in India," he said.

He said President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have a chance to meet face to face and share views on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit next week in London.

"It is vital that together we take steps to foster growth, enhance transparent regulation, and keep our markets open to global trade," he said.

He said the two countries should also work together on the issue of climate change.

"The U.S. is committed to putting in place a mandatory plan to cut its own emissions. But India too has a responsibility to play a leadership role in helping to bring about a consensus that brings both developed and developing countries into a global framework. I understand that India has concerns about caps, but with its growing emissions, we must work with India to ensure it is part of any effective solution to climate change. We stand ready not only to look at how American technologies can be linked to any solution, but how we can partner with India to develop new, greener energy sources and promote conservation. Furthermore, India’s high energy demand and insufficient domestic energy resources make it a prime partner for potential investment and technology sharing, both as part of the climate change agenda and also broader energy development.," he said.

Mr Steinberg said both the US and India had a responsibility to craft a strengthened nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) regime that fosters safe, affordable nuclear power to help the globe's energy and environment needs while assuring against the spread of nuclear weapons.

"President Obama has pledged U.S. leadership in meeting our obligations as the world’s most powerful nuclear state, but India has a special role, and responsibility, as well," he said.

Mr Steinberg said that, in the nearer term, the US and India must work together to help address what is one of the most urgent security challenges facing them – to work with the democratic governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to root out the violent forces that threaten the stability of the region and pose a direct danger to India and America. "We are joined in the searing memories of September 11th and Mumbai in understanding the urgency and importance of this task," he underlined.

"This week President Obama will set out our own approach to this urgent challenge, drawing upon the heroic labor of Brookings’ own Bruce Riedel, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and many others. And we are grateful for the efforts India has made to support economic development and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Next week, we will gather in The Hague, under the chairmanship of the United Nations and the Dutch, to develop a collaborative program involving all of Afghanistan’s neighbors and key donors. Later in April, the friends of democratic Pakistan will meet to pledge support for Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen its economy and institutions to meet the existential threats they face. As President Zardari and the Pakistani government take the courageous steps needed to confront and eliminate extremists, India and the United States must work together with all of our international partners to support them and to further their effort," he said.

Overall, Mr Steinberg said India and the US should explore creating a broader strategic framework for the various diplomatic dialogues that exist between them to address wide-ranging bilateral and global issues.

He said this necessary for their bilateral relationship to achieve the kind of ambitious goals that the two sides had set for themselves.

"As we embark on this critical third stage of our lift-off, we should do so with a clear-eyed recognition that we will not always agree on how best to address the vital challenges of our times. Our history, geography and economic development are different, and will inevitably lead to some divergence of perspectives. But our common values – and our intertwined fate – require us to make the effort to seek common ground. That is the commitment of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, and one that we look forward to working on with the next government in Delhi," he added.

NNN

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