India, U.S. debate 'deliverables'

NEW DELHI, NOV. 1. India may be in danger of losing the sense of the critical moment in world affairs and the opportunity to restructure the bilateral relations with the United States, if it lets the obsession with Pakistan get the better of its strategic judgment.

The Government has legitimate concerns on the impact of the international coalition's uncritical support to Gen. Pervez Musharraf on its own national security. Mr. Vajpayee is right in cautioning the world against the danger of reinforcing Pakistan's policy of sponsoring cross-border violence in the process of confronting international terrorism.

But pushing this argument beyond a point is likely to bring diminishing diplomatic returns. It will reduce India's standing in the current international coalition to that of a noisy complainant against Pakistan.

Clarity about the future of the American policy towards the subcontinent can only come when the current contradictions run their course. In the interim, the diplomatic challenge for Mr. Vajpayee is to utilise the current goodwill

towards India in the Bush administration to put in place enduring structures of bilateral cooperation that could insure against future uncertainty. To achieve that objective, Mr. Vajpayee needs to shift the focus of his visit to Washington away from immediate concerns on Pakistan to the long-term importance of injecting a substantive strategic content into the bilateral relations.

Every visit by a foreign leader to Washington is discussed within the American establishment in terms of ``receivables'' and ``deliverables''. From the Indian point of view, what can New Delhi offer and what can it expect to get from Washington during Mr. Vajpayee's visit?

From the Indian side, Mr. Vajpayee needs to reiterate its unambiguous support to the current American war against international terrorism. The recent focus on Pakistan has tended to take away from the original Indian stand that needs to be reaffirmed by Mr. Vajpayee.

Second, India must also offer greater cooperation in mobilising international political support to the coalition's war against international terrorism. As the war enters a difficult phase, India must forcefully argue against the growing attempts in the world to posit a ``moral equivalence'' between the international coalition and the Taliban.

The concern for civilian casualties in the present war or questions about the tactical conduct of the war cannot be allowed undermine the basic unacceptability of the Taliban's state support to terrorism and the necessary rejection that ends - however noble they are - justify the means, the targeting of innocent people.

Third, India must also express its readiness to work together with the U.S. in addressing over the long-term the root causes of international terrorism. New Delhi and Washington have an opportunity now to join their efforts in promoting political moderation and economic modernisation in the region and beyond.

Finally, India needs to renew support to the idea of a new strategic framework that the U.S. President, Mr. George W. Bush proposed last May and remains one of the core policy pillars of the administration.

What should India expect in return? It is certainly not the Indian diplomatic style to seek quid pro quo in its engagement with other nations. Mr. Vajpayee is unlikely to demand any specific favours from Mr. Bush. But as the two leaders look at the long-term bilateral ties, a number of areas for intensified cooperation present themselves. Among them are a more intensive cooperation in counter-terrorism including that related to weapons of mass destruction and strengthening the global non- proliferation regime through India's full participation in various export control groupings.

The U.S. needs to remove existing restrictions against high technology cooperation between the two countries specifically in civilian nuclear and space sectors and facilitate greater flows of dual-use technologies to India.

India and the U.S. could also announce substantive long-term cooperation between the two military establishments, including on military technology transfers. That is likely to be on the agenda of the U.S. Defence Secretary, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, who is visiting India on Monday as part of a wider regional tour that includes Russia and Pakistan.

Recommended for you