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India And The United States

India And The United States

Author: Yashwant Sinha
Publication: Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.
Date: September 10, 2002

MIN. SINHA: Thank you, Mr. Talbott. Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for those very gracious words of introduction.

This is my first visit to the United States since I assumed charge as India's Minister for External Affairs, but as has just been pointed out, I am not a stranger to this country or to this city.

Mr. Talbott, you are somebody who is greatly admired in India. Your contribution to the recent advancement of India-U.S. relations is considerable. The vision articulated by President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee in Delhi in March, 2000 was in a large part the result of the very intense exchange you conducted with my colleague, Mr. Jaswant Singh, over the previous two years. Those exchanges laid the foundation for a relationship that my prime minister has described as one between two natural allies. I am glad that you're leading this vibrant institution now. I shall look forward to working with you on many issues of common concern.

Ladies and gentlemen, we meet today on the even of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. The horrendous events of that fateful Tuesday shook not just the United States but all of the civilized world. Thousands of innocent people perished. Modern technology carried images of this barbarity across the globe in real time. The whole world felt wounded. President Bush said it was not an act of terrorism but an act of war. This is a war in which India and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder.

India has long been a victim of clandestine warfare of state-sponsored, cross-border terrorism carried out in the name of religion. In the last 20 years over 50,000 innocent Indians have been victims of terrorism. Our aircraft have been hijacked. Trains and busses have been bombed. Marketplaces, workplaces and centers of learning have been attacked. Even women and children have not been spared.

Posterity may well judge September 11 to be a watershed in the history of modern civilization. The dramatic events of that day brought home the fact that terror is a global menace, not constrained by geographical or national boundaries. Democratic and open societies such as ours are particularly vulnerable to the threat of organized terrorism. What the terrorists seek to destroy are the values and principles that democracies cherish. India and the United States therefore have a vital stake in defeating the forces of terror.

During his visit to the United States last year, Prime Minister Vajpayee said that the terrible tragedy of September 11 has created the opportunity to fashion a determined global response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever it exists and under whatever means. That is the principle challenge before us today.

The war we are currently engaged in is different from any that mankind has fought earlier. The enemy then was clearly identifiable. Rules of engagement were clearly defined. The actors were nation states. During the Cold War too the ideological fault lines were clearly delineated.

The terrorist in contrast is an undefined enemy. He recognizes no rules and no boundaries. His behavior is neither rational nor predictable. He targets unarmed civilians. His ideology is that of hate.

Our task therefore is to deal with a shadowy and dangerous adversary. The doctrines of security, so carefully cultivated in earlier times, are not relevant to this type of warfare. Deterrence has not effect.

September 11 demonstrated that in an age of technological advancement the terrorist was able to utilize relatively modest technologies to rake destruction on a mass scale. We have still to develop an effective response to the suicide assassin. The intersection of weapon of mass destruction and terrorism complicates our task further.

We have had a measure of success in targeting terrorists and inducing their state sponsors to rein in their irresponsibility, but we have had rather limited success in chancing permanently their ingrained pattern of behavior. For that to happen, military action alone will not suffice. We have to alter attitudes and confront the mindset that breeds terrorism.

It would be equally erroneous to frame our war on terrorism in the context of a clash of civilizations or a conflict of religions. Tolerance and pluralism rest on the foundations of democracy. India's experiment over the last five decades has proved that democracy alone can harmoniously weave together the strands of a multicultural and multi-religious society.

Terrorist violence sprouts from the seeds of religious extremism and fanaticism. It is nurtured by the soil of authoritarianism. The root cause of terrorism is the absence of democracy and intolerance of dissent. It is aggravated by the underdevelopment and social inequities. It is by addressing the internal character of society that have insidiously bred distorted human values, that terrorism can finally be vanquished. This is a task that also requires greater international cooperation, especially among nations that believe in democracy, pluralism and universally applicable standards of human rights.

It's a paradox that while democracies are very vulnerable to terrorism, at the same time they remain the biggest bulwark against terrorism. The combat against terrorism must be combined with the reassertion of democracy throughout the world.

India and the United States are allies in the cause of democracy. Together we created the community of democracy. As the twin towers of democracy and as nations forged from many traditions and faiths we share the same vision, that freedom and governance, based on people's consent provide the strongest foundation for both peace and prosperity and that they are universal aspirations, constrained neither by culture nor levels of economic development.

We represent a fifth of humanity and a quarter of the world's economy. We have built creative entrepreneurial societies. We are leaders in the information age. The currents of commerce and culture linking our societies runs strong and deep. This presents us with an unparalleled opportunity as well as profound responsibility to work together in partnership of shared endeavor. These range from managing the consequences of instability, eliminating the ideological and financial sources of terrorism, protecting the sea lanes of communication, securing a stable and free access to energy sources and markets in the region and preventing the proliferation of weapon of mass destruction.

Prime Minister Vajpayee will be meeting President Bush in New York in a couple of days from now. Since their first meeting in Washington ten months ago the pace of our relationship has accelerated greatly. Exchanges in the field of defense have emerged as our most valued asset. The Defense Policy Group was revived last year. India and the U.S. Special Forces undertook joint exercises for the first time in Agra in May. A second round of such exercises is being planned in Alaska in the near future. Our navies are now engaged in joint patrolling in the Straits of Malacca. We have welcomed the lifting of economic restrictions, which has reopened the prospects of substantive trade in military items and of technical cooperation in defense production. A newest strategic dialogue has taken route, facilitating a closer interaction in areas such as nonproliferation, counter-proliferation, missile defense and U.S. plans to reduce its strategic nuclear arsenal.

India has always subscribed to and remains committed to the global elimination of weapon of mass destruction. At the same time, even as we maintain a minimum credible nuclear deterrent, we have proclaimed a policy of no first use and a voluntary moratorium on further explosive nuclear underground testing. India's nuclear policy is one of restraint and responsibility.

Our bilateral agenda also includes a new stimulus to high technology commerce, civilian space cooperation and civilian nuclear cooperation. India has consistently striven to harness modern technology for the benefit of its large population. We have adapted technologies to suit the unique genius of our people. A productive partnership between the United States and India holds out the promise of both increased commerce and accelerated development.

We are also keen to strengthen our bilateral economic dialogue. The United States is already India's largest trading partner and the largest foreign investor. The time is right for a further expansion of this relationship.

The Indian economy is reckoned today among the fastest growing economies of the world. Our GDP has grown at an average annual rate of 6 percent over the last decade. Despite a global slowdown, India's growth prospects are promising. There is political stability and a firm commitment to take forward our economic reforms program. Our objective is to double the per capita income in the next ten years.

Even as we pursue the campaign against terrorism, India and the United States are jointly addressing other areas of global concern. We are committed to battling poverty so that the promise of a new economy permeates everywhere. We support an open, equitable and rule- based multilateral trading system. As leaders in the forefront of the new high-technology economy, we recognize that countries can achieve robust economic growth while protecting the environment and combating global warming. A bilateral global issues forum has been established whose first meeting is expected to take place in Delhi next month.

We must also work to spread democracy at the national as also international level. Sometimes the multilateral vocation of the United States is forgotten. Almost all the significant multilateral institutions were created as a result of U.S. initiatives: the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the GATT reincarnated now as the World Trade Organization. They needed initial guidance. Now several decades after their creation we require changes in their governance. We need to readjust the structures of decision- making in international bodies to reflect contemporary realities. We cannot hope to foster a democratic culture in the world until the principal international institutions are themselves democratized and made more representative.

Rapid technological advances have propelled us into a globalized world. It is fashionable today to talk of bridging the digital decade. While the benefits of globalization should not be discounted, we cannot also be blind to its implications for the security of developing countries. The global economy can be harnessed in the cause of closing the gap between the north and the south and need not be an instrument of neo-colonial conquest.

Addressing the challenges of today necessitates an attitude of give and take. A novel feature of our relationship is that we have become sensitive to each other's strategic compulsions and frailty. Dissent and differences are natural parts of democracy. These are sometimes overemphasized in our erstwhile exchanges, not the many commonalities, which is now the practice on both sides.

To sum up therefore, the important challenges that the world faces today are those of security, of economic development and of technology. The India-U.S. partnership is endowed with the resources to attain the goals, which our founding fathers dreamed of, a free and democratic world, which would be humane, peaceful, prosperous and equitable. We could work together for promoting political moderation and economic modernization. With our shared values and convergence of interest and as engaged democracies we can together enrich our respective societies as also work together for regional and global security and prosperity.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Let me apologize for in my rush to have a brief introduction to omit the title of your talk. And for the record, as we know now, it was the "India and the United States: Meeting the Challenge of the 21st Century Together."

You have used one phrase that I hadn't heard before, which I shall plagiarize liberally, and as an academic I'm entitled to do that, the "twin towers of democracy," and I think that's a marvelous metaphor. A year ago it wouldn't have meant very much; it would have seemed like a cliche, but now it resonates very deeply, at least here, and I think I shall use that myself and perhaps give you credit for it. (Laughter.)

We have time for questions and would you let me know when we have to break? So, please, Wolf Grose?

Q Wolf Grose from the Northrop Grumman Corporation. You enumerated some cooperation in the defense and civilian fields. One of the problems that I think we have and certainly the military has is interoperability, which we hopefully will come at with some military sales and military cooperation.

One of the impediments that we had unfortunately in lifting sanctions was a quirk, which required all export licenses to go to the Congress, no matter how little value they may have, down to zero.

I wonder if you're going to be bringing up this problem to your colleagues at the Department of State and the Department of Defense as well as to the U.S. Congress.

MIN. SINHA: Thank you. This is an issue that I have already taken up in my various discussions with the U.S. administration officials yesterday. And I have been assured that this is an issue, which they are aware of and they are trying to do their best to ensure that it is facilitated further in the future. And I'll also be taking this up in my discussions with the representatives of the Congress today later in the day.

MODERATOR: Steven Solarz, Congressman Solarz.

Q One of the challenges both our countries will face in the 21st century and are facing now is what to do about weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. What would be the view of India toward a UN resolution calling for a resumption in inspection regime in Iraq, giving Iraq a deadline by which to permit the resumption of an unfettered and unrestricted inspection regime and authorizing the use of all necessary means to remove Iraq's weapon of mass destruction in the event that Iraq refuses either to permit the resumption of an inspection regime or to fully cooperate with it if it is, in fact reestablished?

MIN. SINHA: It has been, Mr. Solarz, our stated position that Iraq should fully comply with the UN resolutions. And if the United Nations were to take up this issue again and issue new guidelines for the weapons inspectors to go in, we would be supportive of that process.

The only caution that I would suggest at this point in time is that the final resolution should not be made deliberately so impossible that no country can accept those conditionalities. So there is a need for reason in dealing with this situation.

There is also need for credible evidence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. And I think, as and when this issue is discussed in the United Nations, countries concerned, we'll be able to carry conviction within the United Nations and with peoples in the rest of the world.

MODERATOR: The gentleman on this side here.
Q Mr. Minister -- (inaudible).
MODERATOR: Could you state your name, please?
Q (Inaudible.) I'm an Indian-American. Mr. Minister, last six to eight months, all we hear here, mostly about U.S.-India relations, is all about Kashmir and Pakistan. And if we look at it, the visit of Colin Powell, Armitage, (Hall ?), people are visiting India. But the basic issue is Kashmir and Pakistan.

I think it is high time that U.S.-India relations is not just about Pakistan. And I want to know, are you addressing that issue with the administration, that where U.S.-India relations are heading away from Kashmir and Pakistan?

MIN. SINHA: I'm glad that you raised this issue. And let me hasten to add that I entirely agree with you. In fact, this is what Secretary of State Powell and I agreed to in Delhi when Mr. Powell was visiting in the month of July.

And let me also tell you that yesterday, when I met with Secretary Powell, we have spent most of our time discussing Indo-U.S. bilateral relationship and not India-Pakistan. It came up incidentally by way of, you know, my updating him on the latest situation.

I have also gone on record to say that India-U.S. relationship is not hostage to India-Pakistan relationship, as indeed no bilateral relationship is hostage to any other bilateral relationships. I am happy that you have raised this point.

My appeal to the media which might be present here is to emphasize this point, that we have discussed the whole threat of our relationship and not merely India-Pakistan. It is a very compelling subject and often draws our attention, just as I find that Iraq is something which is compelling attention here. But there is much more to India-U.S. relationship than merely Pakistan.

MODERATOR: The gentleman over here.

Q (Inaudible) -- self-employed businessman. They say that Indians have become a powerhouse in information technology because we speak the English language. What is the language of diplomacy that each time the same words are being recited but there's no headway being made on this terrorism issue? Because from our reports, the intelligence here and everywhere, it is not where the problem lies.

But still the U.S. administration failed to recognize where the center of terrorism is. Even now, they've reported in the U.S. papers that the gold of al Qaeda has been moved from Pakistan. Was it that difficult to prevent that or seize those assets? Because each time its natural allies, pillars of democracy, world's largest, and the first democracy -- but the question is, can there not be open and frank talk with them? And can India not go ahead with its own agenda? Because in January, the prime minister said that we should have gone for hot pursuit after the December attack on Parliament.

MIN. SINHA: Well, some of the words that you find often repeated represent concept. And it is important for us to keep reminding ourselves of those very important concepts. So a repetition of those words is inevitable in diplomatic vocabulary.

The second issue is I don't think anyone is trying to mislead anyone else. When we discuss these issues between ourselves, we are very frank, we are very open, and we clearly understand where each side is located. But let me also tell you that the war against terrorism is not going to be won in a hurry. It is something which has to be tackled meticulously, determinedly, resolutely, and we will have to wage a long, long fight against this menace of terrorism.

You're quite right in saying that some of the recent events in India were horrendous. They did cause a great deal of pain, and the prime minister was quite right in saying that there were times when we thought we were at the end of our patience. But ultimately there are many, many other issues which have to be taken into consideration, into account, have to be factored in, before you decide on your next step.

So while there could be a certain amount of impatience with what is happening, those who are in the position of taking decisions also carry a tremendous burden of responsibility on their shoulders. And I suggest you trust them in the U.S., trust them in India. There is no way in which we can fail. There is no way in which we cannot win this war. We will win this war, but we need patience.

MODERATOR: The gentleman in the back -- (inaudible).
Q Thank you. (Inaudible.)
MODERATOR: Please state your name and affiliation.
Q Dmitri -- (inaudible) -- TASS News Agency, Russia. Mr. Minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as I know, in the end of this year, plans to visit India. What do you expect from this visit? And also, what do you think about the role that Russia plays in your region? Thank you.

MIN. SINHA: We are greatly looking forward to the visit of President Putin in December to India. This will be his second trip to India after he assumed the presidency of Russia. Our prime minister was in Russia last year, and these high-level exchanges are a regular feature.

Our foreign secretary was in Moscow only the other day. I'll be visiting Moscow later next month. And Russia is a very important strategic partner of India. We value that relationship. And we think Russia has an important role to play in our region. It has an important role to play globally.

MODERATOR: All right, the gentleman all the way in the back has been standing up patiently.

Q Thank you. (Inaudible) -- Alexander, International Law Institute. As all of us know, education in hatred is one of the factors that encourages terrorism. In your view, what can the international community do in a concrete way, for example, to diffuse some of the theological elements in the education, for example, in the madrassas?

MIN. SINHA: I don't know what the international community can do except encourage national governments to change the system of education. There is a lot of change which is taking place in many countries around the world in the old system of madrassa education.

In our own country, in India, I'm aware of the fact that now madrassa are taking to information technology. They're using computers to train their students in a totally different kind of environment. And I think that is a kind of sustained effort which we need to pursue, not only with regard to madrassa education but with regard to all education which is based on religion.

MODERATOR: Let's see. (Inaudible.)
Q Professor Harold Rule (sp) from the University of Virginia. I'd like to just follow up, in a kind of a footnote-ish way, on the question that Congressman Solarz raised, and particularly your answer, because you said that, of course, on the one hand, India is prepared to obey whatever judgments the United Nations makes on an issue of this kind. And then you said that in addition, you would really want to see more proof, more evidence, that the menace emanating from Iraq is great enough to warrant some major change in policy coming out of the U.N. and possibly the U.S.

And then it occurred to me, India is closer to the Middle East, in a way, than the United States is. India is willing to have an extremely effective and comprehensive intelligence system of its own, and it certainly has always been quite aware of things that have been going on in regions around it, like the Middle East. And I was just wondering whether India has anything to add through its own intelligence knowledge about the actual degree of danger that Iraq presents in relation to this question of whether something further should be done.

MIN. SINHA: I'll answer this question in two parts. The first is, when I talked about credible evidence, I was referring to the need to convince the international community that there is -- that Iran, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction which need to be tackled. From what I see in the newspapers all around, I find that there are doubts in the minds of the international community, various important leaders with regard to that. And that's where we need to carry conviction, if we are in a position to carry conviction.

As far as our own intelligence is concerned, we'll share that intelligence with whoever is willing to exchange notes with us about Iraq and about other countries.

Q Well, if I could interject, but on this point the administration or some in the administration might argue that if they do have weapons of mass destruction, it's too late to do anything, because then Iraq is vulnerable -- then Iraq could retaliate on its neighbors or on the United States or supporting through terrorists, so therefore the strike has to come before they actually acquire weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons.

MIN. SINHA: More the reason, therefore, to be able to move through the U.N. system and carry conviction there.

Q Mr. Sinha, thanks for coming and talking to us today.
MODERATOR: Could you identify yourself, please?
Q Yeah, my name is Mona Segal (ph). I'm an Indian-American. I was wondering, very sincere among people that the word terrorism might be used in just blanket ways, too extensively. And I was wondering if you would address the issue of state-sponsored terrorism, especially the complicity of the state government in Gujarat, in the communal violence there.

MIN. SINHA: Yes, this is an issue which has come up. You cannot equate what happened in Gujarat with either terrorism practiced by one side or the other or state terrorism. What happened in Gujarat, you have already said, was most unfortunate. But I'd also like to remind you that in the police firing in Gujarat, during the disturbances, over 200 people have been killed belonging to both communities. And that figure should show the determination of the administration to tackle the violence which had erupted.

There has been a popular perception that what happened was state-sponsored. I do not share that view. I'll tell you very candidly and frankly, because those of us who are aware of what happened and what the administration did are convinced that the administration did try to tackle the problem as effectively as possible. And this time Gujarat -- it's not new, this kind of communal violence. And Gujarat did not happen for the first time. And this time the situation was brought under control much faster, much quicker than in the past.

MODERATOR: I can't tell if your hand was up in the back. (Inaudible.)  Q Good morning, Mr. Minister. I'm Rajesh Kadian (ph). Would you also comment on the level of Indo-U.S. cooperation in the neighboring countries, especially Afghanistan and Nepal, and more so in terms of the pacification of the countryside? Thank you.

MIN. SINHA: We are in touch with each other, both with regard to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and with regard to what is happening in Nepal. In fact, we are in touch on all issues relating to our immediate neighborhood, and we exchange notes; we exchange views. We keep each other informed.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)
Q (Inaudible) -- Asian Center for Democratic Governance, which is a U.S.-India project partnered by the National Endowment for Democracy here and the Confederation of Indian Industry in Delhi.

On cooperation on issues of democracy, are there specific policies that you are likely to discuss or develop jointly with the United States on general issues of democracy, and specifically on regional strengthening of democracy? Supporters of democracy often point out that it's a good instrument for peace and stability. It also suggests that major wars that have been fought between India and Pakistan have always happened when Pakistan was under a military dictatorship. So are there specific issues that you're likely to discuss, and are you going to talk about the region?

MIN. SINHA: Well, as for the issue of democracy and particularly the promotion of democracy is concerned, we have been talking to each other. And as I mentioned in my intervention earlier, U.S. and India cooperated in setting up the community of democracy. We'll been meeting in Seoul, in South Carolina, later this year, in November.

I think that will be an opportunity for U.S. and India and, in fact, other democracies to discuss how we promote the democratic spirit all over the world. And this will have to be reduced, as you said, to more specific issues and also prepare a strategy about how we take the democratic spirit forward throughout the world.

The other point which I have already mentioned in my earlier intervention is the promotion of democracy, not merely at the national and sub-national level, but also our democratization of the international organizations. That's also very important, because we cannot profess to be committed to democracy at one level and have a totally different approach at another level. So it is something which has to be dealt with comprehensively, both in terms of national as well as international responsibilities.

MODERATOR: We have time for a few more questions. Let me also say that we would ask you to stay in your seats after we're done while the minister departs. Let's see; there was a question back here. Depa (ph)?

Q Depa Lapley (ph) from the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Center for the Advancement of India at the University of Pennsylvania.

Minister, I would like to hear your perspective on what we're reading about the U.S.'s positions and attempts to get more parties to participate in the upcoming elections in Kashmir, how you have found the U.S. role in the upcoming elections. Thank you.

MIN. SINHA: It's been a useful role. We are aware of the discussions that they have been having. And we ourselves have been very keen that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir should be inclusive. And therefore, in any case India's elections are always open, inclusive -- anyone can participate. In this particular case, you know, there's certain professedly separatist elements in Jammu and Kashmir. They have been invited to participate in the elections and prove their support base. And I am glad to be able to tell you that some of the elements of that group are also participating in the elections as independent candidates. And one notices a change in language of the Hurriyat, which is encouraging. So it is our hope that the electoral process in Jammu and Kashmir will be more inclusive than has been the case perhaps in the past.

MODERATOR: We have time for one last question. This gentleman over here.
Q Thank you. My name is Alan Cronstad (ph). I am from the Congressional Research Service. Minister, I am curious if in your time in your current post, in meetings with U.S. officials, has the word "benchmark" come up at all? And, more generally, do you feel you'd agree that the issue of nuclear non-proliferation has fallen by the way side in terms of Indo-U.S. relations in the past year?

MIN. SINHA: What kind of benchmarks did you talk about? What kind of benchmarks?

Q I meant the benchmarks, the five benchmarks that used to be talked about in terms of nuclear non-proliferation in the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan.

MIN. SINHA: Well, some of them I have dealt with in the intervention which I made earlier. But those are issues that we are discussing even today. I would like to say that there is perhaps much greater understanding of those issues between the two sides than was the case to begin with. And the other point which I made in my intervention is that we are a responsible nation, we are a responsible democracy, and therefore the kind of apprehensions which were there in the beginning -- those apprehensions have by and large given way to a more reasoned, more rational approach. We are carrying our discussions, have bilateral dialogue on those issues. Even today the dialogue which as I said earlier Mr. Talbott started with my predecessor, Mr. Jaswant Singh. Those are issues which we are discussing with the U.S.

MODERATOR: Mr. Minister, let me thank you very much for a very articulate and informative presentation. You are welcome -- (applause) -- wait, wait, wait -- you are welcome to come back to Brookings anytime. Your predecessor actually will be here in a couple of weeks.

(Remarks by Yashwant Sinha, Indian Minister For External Affairs, At A Brookings Institution Briefing)

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