'India dependent on US to realise global ambitions'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington,DC | February 16, 2009 09:20 IST
Last Updated: February 16, 2009 09:21 IST

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The new US intelligence chief while acknowledging that India is unlikely to endorse positions favored by the United States and predicted that New Delhi [Images] would pursue independence in its foreign policy, nonetheless declared that India would be dependent on the US to realise its ambitions of emerging as a global power, as well as to boost its confidence to deal with China.

Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, the Obama [Images] Administration's Director of National Intelligence, in his first appearance before the US Congress, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that "on the global state, Indian leaders will continue to follow an independent course characterized by economic and political pragmatism."

Consequently, he told lawmakers that "New Delhi will not automatically support or oppose positions favored by the United States or any other major power."

"Nonetheless, good relations with the United States will be essential for India to realize its global ambition," Blair said, and added that as a result, "Indian leaders will seek benefits from American influence, trade, and technology."

Blair maintained that "strong ties to Washington also will give India more confidence in dealing with China," particularly because "India will be concerned about China during the coming decade because of Beijing's [Images] political and economic power and its ability to project military force regionally." But, he acknowledged that "Indian leaders will strive to avoid confrontation with China."

Blair also said that New Delhi will seek stronger ties with Washington to help "in mitigating the dangers posed by its  long-time adversary, Pakistan." However, he reiterated that "Indian leaders will often adopt positions contrary to those favored by Washington."

On Indian-Pakistan relations, Blair said it's unlikely that the composite dialogue between these two nations will be resurrected any time soon, especially after the horrific Mumbai terror attacks [Images], "unless Islamabad [Images] takes sustained, concrete, meaningful steps to allay Indian concerns about its support to anti-Indian militant groups."

Blair in his testimony--which coincided with Pakistan's decision to acknowledge the involvement of some of its nationals in the Mumbai terror attacks and to prosecute those who conspired and launched this carnage, which was welcome in Washington as a positive step�said, "Within South Asia, one of the world's least integrated regions, India will strive to manage tensions with Pakistan, transnational terrorism and spillover from instability in small,  neighboring states."

In this regard, he said unless Pakistan takes these sustained, concrete and meaning steps to alleviate India's concerns about its ties to fomenting terrorism across its border, the "determined efforts by Indian and Pakistani leaders to improve relations through the so-called Composite Dialogue on the last four years could unravel."

Blair spoke of how the 26/11 in Mumbai had "convinced many Indians that Pakistani military leaders in an effort to undercut India's emerging international stature, now favor a strategy of allowing Pakistan-based groups to attack targets that symbolize New Delhi's growing prominence on the global state or that could undermine India's undermine India's prominence by provoking religious violence in the country."

In lauding India's restraint in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, when there was much concern that India would launch a retaliatory attack against terrorist camps in Pakistani territory, which led to then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] rushing to the region, the new intelligence czar said, "In the absence of a military response against Islamabad, the Indian public will look for visible signs that Pakistan is actively working to punish those involved and eliminate its domestic terrorist organizations."

But, he acknowledged that an India-Pakistan conflict couldn't completely be ruled out if Pakistan-based groups carry out additional terrorist attacks against India and end up provoking India, which could be under tremendous public pressure to retaliate.

Blair also said, "India, which has endured a series of major terrorist attacks without major military response since 2003, is under domestic pressure to make rapid and significant improvements in its counter-terrorism capabilities."

The intelligence head also said that India would also have to be looking over its shoulder "to safeguard its interests in light of the concluding civil war in Sri Lanka [Images] and the political uncertainly in Bangladesh and Nepal, which have experienced dramatic transformations in government during the past year."

Blair informed the lawmakers that "New Delhi generally will be supportive of democratic forces in its smaller neighbors, while also being sensitive to the opinions of the Tamil and Bengali  communities within India."