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The Rediff Special/John Kerry
'US should look at India and Pakistan separately'
June 25, 2004
Though Democratic Party candidate for the US Presidency Senator John Kerry has not yet outlined his foreign policy ideas should he become president, he spoke about 'The Future of Indo-American Relations' way back on February 7, 2001. That speech is an authoritative sketch of the Democratic candidate's thinking on India and on US-India relations.
We reproduce verbatim Senator Kerry's speech delivered over three years ago on the floor of the Senate:
Mr President, the powerful earthquake [on January 26] which recently devastated India's densely populated western state of Gujarat has focused our attention, once again, on India. Gujarat officials estimate that 28,000 to 30,000 people have died. Thousands more have been injured and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
In response to India's dire need for help, USAID has sent blankets, generators, water containers, plastic sheeting, food and other relief supplies -- all part of our official commitment to provide some $10 million in emergency humanitarian aid. But in my view this is not enough. We can and should do more. In the initial phase of this disaster when India particularly needed search and rescue teams and medical assistance, the United States was conspicuous in its absence. The Russians, the Brits, the Swiss and others were engaged in pulling people out of the rubble. We were not. At least half a dozen countries, including Denmark, Israel and Sweden, sent field hospitals, doctors and medical personnel. We did not. Given our slow start, it is especially important for the United States to be particularly generous when it comes to reconstruction.
Indian Americans, on the other hand, have moved quickly to mobilize their own relief effort -- collecting sizable donations and medical supplies as well as assembling teams of doctors. Reflecting the depth of concern among Americans for the tragedy that has struck India, President Bush, last week made a condolence call to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I commend the President for making this call, not only because it was the right thing to do under the circumstances, but also because it was an important gesture by the new administration toward a country in the region that the United States tends to ignore, except in times of crisis.
Regrettably, the [Bill] Clinton administration paid little attention to developments in South Asia until May 1998, when India broke its 25-year moratorium on nuclear testing with five underground tests. Taken by surprise, the administration tried -- to no avail -- to persuade Pakistan not to test in response. Confronted with escalating tensions not only in the nuclear realm but on the ground over Kashmir, the administration was forced to focus on growing instability in the subcontinent.
Belatedly the administration picked up the pace of its diplomacy in the region, opening a high level of dialogue with India and Pakistan on nuclear issues, interceding to reduce tensions over Kashmir, and arranging a presidential visit last March to India, with a brief stop in Pakistan. President Clinton's trip to India -- the first by a US president in 22 years -- was an effort, in his words, to 'rekindle the relationship' between the United States and India. It was a welcome initiative.
I was in India in December 1999, a few months before President Clinton's visit, to participate in the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit. While there, I had an opportunity to meet with a number of Indian officials including the prime minister, his national security adviser and the defence minister. During the course of these meetings, it became very clear to me that India wanted a better relationship with the United States. In many respects this was predictable because from India's perspective, the neighborhood in which it lives has become less friendly and more threatening, and its historical ally, the Soviet Union, no longer exists.
Pakistan is under the control of a military regime rather than a democratically elected government -- a regime which New Delhi views as illegitimate and threatening. In the months before the Clinton visit tensions with Pakistan had intensified not only over Kashmir but also over Pakistani support for terrorists. Although tensions have subsided since then, Kashmir continues to be a volatile issue that could provoke another war between India and Pakistan both armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan, like India, has declared its intention to be in the nuclear game.
Pakistan clearly poses a security problem for India but not of the magnitude of China. As one Indian told me during my visit, "Pakistan is a nuisance but not a threat -- China is a threat."
The biggest and from the Indian viewpoint most menacing power in the neighborhood is China -- a country with which India has had longstanding tensions over border and territorial issues. China's past assistance to Pakistan's nuclear programme and its ongoing efforts to build influence with other smaller countries in the region, particularly those on India's border such as Burma, are proof at least in the minds of Indians that China is trying to encircle India. Whereas most of the countries in Southeast Asia see Chinese aspirations as limited to that of a regional power that wants recognition and respect, India is wary of China's aspirations both in the region and globally.
The Indian fear of China seems to me to be larger than reality but it is real nonetheless, and it is a major reason why India has been seeking improved relations with the United States. The Clinton administration, recognising that improved relations would be in America's interest as well as India's, wisely took advantage of this opportunity. India is the largest democracy in Asia and a potentially important partner in our efforts to promote regional stability, economic growth and more open political systems in surrounding countries. It is a fledgling nuclear power with the potential to affect the nuclear balance in South Asia as well as our non-proliferation goals on a global level. It is involved in a longstanding conflict with Pakistan, which could erupt into another war possibly at the nuclear level. It is a player in a region dominated by China with whom the
US has mutual interests but also major differences.
While the United States and India have differences over serious issues related to the development of India's nuclear programme, labour and the environment, Cold War politics and alliances no longer stand in the way of improved relations. In fact, as many of my Indian hosts suggested, the United States and India are "natural allies." Both are vibrant democracies; Indian American family ties are strong and extensive. As India has begun to open and liberalise its economy over the past decade, American business and investment in India has grown, particularly in the high tech region of Bangalore, and America has become India's largest trading partner and a source of foreign investment. And on the flip side, Indians are playing a major role in the growth of our high tech industry in California, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere. Together with the Taiwanese, Indians own more than 25% of the firms and supply more than 25% of the labour in this country in this technology fields. All of India's political parties have accepted the need to continue India's economic modernisation. Undoubtedly there will be disagreements over how to do it but continuation of the process holds out the prospects of increased economic interaction with the United States.
The potential exists for the US and India to have a strong cooperative relationship across a broad range of issues. President Clinton's visit to India was an important step in laying the foundation for this new relationship. Working groups were set up on trade, clean energy and environment, and science and technology. A broad range of environmental, social and health agreements were signed. To strengthen economic ties, $2 billion in Eximbank support for US exports to India was announced; US firms signed some $4 billion in agreements with Indian firms. The effort to institutionalise dialogue was capped by an agreement between President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee for regular bilateral summits between the leaders of both countries. An invitation was extended to the Prime Minister to visit Washington, which he did last September. During that visit the two leaders agreed to expand cooperation in the areas of arms control, terrorism and AIDS.
The seeds have been sown for a new Indo-American relationship. It is up to the [George] Bush administration to nurture them. The administration must devote time and attention to the relationship -- and to developments in the region -- on a consistent basis, not on a crisis only basis. President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee set out to regularise bilateral contacts not only at the working level but also at the highest levels. President Bush should continue this process. Personal diplomacy at the highest levels, particularly when dealing with Asian countries, is an essential element of relationship building. I also believe that the time is long overdue for the United States to distinguish, once and for all, between India and Pakistan and to treat each differently and according to the demands of those bilateral relationships.
A constant source of irritation for Indians has been the inability or unwillingness of the United States to differentiate between India and Pakistan. From their perspective, India's commitment to democracy and economic reform dictate that the United States have a different relationship with India than with Pakistan, which has a military regime that supports terrorism. I agree that a distinction must be drawn. That the United States lumps them together or even worse is soft on Pakistan is clearly unacceptable from the Indian point of view. To a certain extent, they have a point. To a certain extent, they have made their point accurately.
Just as the passing of the Cold War has improved the atmosphere for an improvement in Indo-American relations, it has also removed the need for the United States to ignore Pakistan's transgressions both within and outside of its borders. The United States no longer needs to tilt toward Pakistan in pursuit of larger strategic objectives. We should look at our relationships with India and Pakistan separately, analysing each in terms of mutual interests and differences and being more candid in defining areas of agreement and disagreement. President Clinton attempted to find a new balance during his trip last year, by spending several days in India and only a few hours in Islamabad. But more needs to be done.
In my view we can advance our interests and strengthen our relationship with India by immediately terminating the sanction on loans to India from International Financial Institutions.
Although President Clinton waived most of the sanctions imposed on India after it tested in 1998, he chose not to exercise the waiver for IFI loans to India amounting to some $1.7 billion or for FMF (Foreign Military Financing) for India. I believe that we should lift the IFI sanction at this time. The release of these funds would send an important signal to India of our ongoing commitment to improved relations while also encouraging the Government of India to continue its economic modernisation.
The sanction on FMF needs discussion in hopes of finding further progress regarding India's position on nuclear issues. At the moment, Indian officials have made it clear that there would be no roll back of India's nuclear programme and that India intends to have a credible minimum nuclear deterrent which means nuclear weapons and delivery systems. They believe that the United States is under-emphasising India's security needs and over emphasising non-proliferation objectives. I believe there is a happy medium between these two. Although there has been ongoing dialogue between Indian and American officials on the Clinton administration's four non-proliferation benchmarks set after the 1998 tests -- signing and ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, halting fissile material production, refraining from deploying or testing missiles or nuclear weapons, and instituting export controls on sensitive goods and technology.
Despite the fact that we set up these benchmarks, the truth is there has been little progress made with respect to them.
We must be frank and acknowledge at the same time, as we see and measure the progress, that we have to be honest about our own status, if you will. That requires us to acknowledge that our failure in the Senate to approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has undermined our ability to influence India and many other countries. And Pakistan, obviously, is in the same equation.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that the dialogue continue because too much is at stake in terms of regional stability and non-proliferation to allow it to wither. We need to understand the fears that are driving India's sense of security and insecurity. We need to ask ourselves what is realistic to expect from India in light of those fears.
For their part, the Indians must understand that much can be gained in the relationship with the United States and with progress on these issues. Arms control and regional stability are inextricably linked, and global security is inextricably linked to our resolution of these issues.
I am very hopeful we can quickly reach a mutual understanding to permit the FMF sanctions to also be lifted. I believe we can make progress on these difficult issues if both parties are prepared to tackle them and to be sensitive to understanding the other's security concerns.
India and the United States have begun to build a new cooperative relationship that reflects our common ties and our common interests. A process has begun, and the administration needs to continue that progress with commitment and with zeal.
India and the United States have an enormous amount to offer each other. We both can benefit, in my judgment, from a more cooperative and friendly working relationship. I think the groundwork has been laid. I hope this administration can move rapidly to lift the current sanctions, to enter into the talks, and to move forward in this most critical relationship.
Kind courtesy: Ram Narayanan