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India is just a blip on Republican radar

August 31, 2004 10:11 IST

India, it seems, is just a speck on the Republican Party radar.

So much for former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's much touted declaration that the United States and India are 'natural allies'.

On the first day of the GOP convention in Madison Square Garden, India didn't figure in the 'long-standing friends' category.

But if it is any consolation, neither did Pakistan appear in either of the categories. This despite Pakistan's 'unstinted support' to the US-led war on terrorism.

The GOP had this to say about the Pacific. "As in every region of the world, America's foreign policy in Asia starts with its allies: Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Our allies are critical in building and expanding peace, security, democracy, and prosperity in East Asia joined by long-standing American friends like Singapore,Indonesia, Taiwan, and New Zealand."

"Republican priorities in the next administration will be clear. We will strengthen our alliance with Japan. We will help to deter aggression in the Korean peninsula. We will counter the regional proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and deploy, in cooperation with our allies, effective theater missile defenses."

The GOP also pledged to 'promote democracy,open markets, and human rights for the betterment of the people of Asia and the United States'.

But the platform acknowledged that 'attention to the fate of East Asia should not obscure American attention to the future of South Asia'.

"India is emerging as one of the great democracies of the twenty-first century.Soon it will be the world's most populous state," the platform said. "India is now redefining its identity and future strategy."

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It spoke of how imperative it is for the United States to 'engage India, respecting its great multicultural achievements and encouraging Indian choices for a more open world'.

"Mindful of its longstanding relationship with Pakistan," the platform added, "the United States will place a priority on the secure, stable development of this volatile region where adversaries now face each other with nuclear arsenals."

But if either India or Pakistan had any apprehensions that a second Bush Administration, if re-elected, may put the pressure on these countries to sign on to nonproliferation agreements, like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty , that a John Kerry Administration has said it would, it need not have any such fears.

The platform, however, admitted that American efforts to slow proliferation of WMDs unravelled when India and Pakistan set off nuclear devices.

"A comprehensive strategy for combatting the new dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction must include a variety of other measures to contain and prevent the spread of such weapons. We need the cooperation of friends and allies -- and should seek the cooperation of Russia and China -- in developing realistic strategies using political, economic,and military instruments to deter and defeat the proliferation efforts of others."

It argued, "We need to address threats from both rogue states and terrorist group -- whether delivered by missile, aircraft, shipping container, or suitcase. In this context, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is another anachronism of obsolete strategic thinking.The treaty is not verifiable, not enforceable, and would not enable the United States to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent."

"We can fight the spread of nuclear weapons, but we cannot wish them away with unwise agreements," it said.

Elsewhere in the platform, however, it pilloried China, saying: "America's key challenge in Asia is the People's Republic of China. China is not a free society. The Chinese government represses political expression at home and unsettles neighbors abroad. It stifles freedom of religion and proliferates weapons of mass destruction."

But it added, 'China is a country in transition, all the more reason for the policies of the United States to be firm and steady. America will welcome the advent of a free and prosperous China. Conflict is not inevitable, and the United States offers no threat to China."

The platform said, "Republicans support China's accession into the World Trade Organisation, but this will not be a substitute for, or lesson the resolve of, our pursuit of improved human rights and an end to proliferation of dangerous technologies by China."

"China is a strategic competitor of the United States, not a strategic partner. We will deal with China without ill will -- but also without illusions. A new Republican government will understand the importance of China but not place China at the center of Asia policy," it said.

Aziz Hannifa in New York