Thursday, June 30, 2005

 

U.S. & India Sign Major Defense Pact

The US and India have signed a 10-year agreement to strengthen defence ties. The "New Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship" (NFDR) was signed this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and India's Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee. In an excellent analysis, Joe Katzman explains why this "is a big deal. A very big deal."
Under the NFDR, Washington has offered high-tech cooperation, expanded economic ties, and energy cooperation. It will also step up a strategic dialogue with India to boost missile defense and other security initiatives, launch a 'defense procurement and production group,' and work to cooperate on military 'research, development, testing and evaluation.'
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Furthermore, the MFDR envisages joint and combined exercises and exchanges between both sides, naval pilot training... and increased cooperation in the areas of worldwide peacekeeping operations and expansion of interaction with other nations "in ways that promote regional and global peace and stability."
We are currently India's largest trading partner and Indians geneally have a favorable opinion of America. Our strategic interests are converging and ties between the two countries are blossoming on many different levels, as US Ambassador to India Robert D. Blackwill noted in 2003:
With respect to overlapping vital national interests, my big three for the next decade andbeyond are to promote peace and freedom in Asia; to combat international terrorism about which more later; and to slow the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It is difficult for me-- and this is a momentous strategic reality - to think of any nations other than India and the United States that will face to the same intense degree all three of these intense challenges simultaneously in the period ahead. Let me repeat them. Advancing Asian stability based on democratic values. Confronting daily the threat of international terror. Slowing the further spread of weapons of mass destruction. This daunting trio will be an encompassing foundation for US-India strategic cooperation for many years to come.

Regarding people-to-people connections, allow me to give you just a few statistics. Since Iarrived in India, the US consular sections in Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai have issued more than a half a million business and tourist visas. And, please listen carefully, the overall visa issuance rate for India is the same today as it was before 9/11, and there are no long visa lines at US diplomatic facilities in India.

In addition, India has become the second greatest source of legal immigration to the United States, second only to Mexico. This is not a one-way flow. In 2002, our consular sections registered more than 5,000 new Americans in India, and the total number of US citizens inIndia is more than 65,000. Last year, India became the single largest source of foreign students in the United States, over 66,000. This number of Indian students has grown by fifty per cent in the past 24 months. In 2002, India was second only to Germany as the country of choice for American senior scholars seeking Fulbright grants to study overseas. And we all know the extraordinary and growing contributions Indian Americans are making to US society.
India is all but certain to become our most important bilateral relationship in the not too distant future. President Bush deserves much of the credit for recognizing this and doing something about it that will have beneficial long-term concequences for America's world wide security interests.

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