Every overseas delegation I join reminds me we are in a Global War on Terrorism, with the inseparable central front of Iraq.
After being subject to attacks for decades, peaceful nations are now developing new alliances previously dismissed as unthinkable. Under the leadership of visionaries like President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, we are making tremendous progress.
When I recently joined Congressman Dan Burton on a seven person bipartisan delegation to India, Pakistan, and France, I again witnessed how our great countries are working together.
As the former co-chair of the India Caucus, I looked forward to my first visit to India and the opportunity to celebrate a doubling of US exports in three years, the establishment of joint military exercises, and the recognition of the increasing influence of Indian Americans contributing to American society.
My trip was especially meaningful to me because my late father, Hugh Wilson, served in India during part of his service for the Flying Tigers in China during World War II.
In the shadow of the October terrorist bombings of buses and a market that killed dozens in New Delhi, we met at the Parliament building with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Visiting this building reminded me of the deadly suicide mission terrorists launched in December 2001, a direct attack on India's democracy.
After acknowledging the difficult issues of civilian nuclear power development and Kashmir, the prime minister reminded the delegation that a recent survey found that 71 percent of Indians favourably view America. This level of appreciation should grow, he pointed out, as nearly 300 million middle class Indians have direct family ties in America. He stated that relations between India and America have never been warmer, and echoed Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran's sentiments that global terrorism is a scourge, and no ideology justifies killing civilians.
Throughout its 58 years as an independent nation, India has endured 60,000 deaths from terrorism -- and all the government officials we met were worried that no one is safe in the world so long as terrorists operate. While we were in India, there was in adjacent Dhaka, Bangladesh, a wave of suicide bombings by terrorists who were attempting to destabilise the nation by attacking its judicial system.
My visit to Pakistan focused on America's sincere generosity to help people recover from the October 9 earthquake that killed 73,331 people and displaced 2.8 million survivors. American relief has been unprecedented, and President Pervez Musharraf reported that the favorite children's toy in Pakistan today is a model Chinook helicopter, a symbol of America's military rescuing quake victims.
While visiting with our tireless Ambassador Ryan Crocker, it was apparent that relations between our two countries have grown stronger. The continued progress is a significant improvement from 26 years ago that week, when extremists burned the American embassy to the ground, killing US Marine Corporal
We flew with Australian pilots by helicopter to the Mehra Tent Camp in the Allai Valley, and were greeted by very capable Pakistani army officers who proudly detailed their immediate recovery efforts and the establishment of the 12,000 person camp with international relief agencies. A highlight for us was to visit children in tent schools, nearly 70 percent of them in school for the first time, learning Urdu and English. The sanitary conditions were expertly planned to last until the spring, when most persons can return to rebuild homes.
A graduate of Wofford College in my home state of South Carolina serves as embassy defense representative, and he explained how professionally the Pakistani army was conducting relief efforts without diminishing its efforts against terrorists. Confirmation of this was a missile attack the night before on a terrorist bomb-making house at Asoray on the Afghan border killing five, one of whom was DNA-identified as one of Osama Bin Laden's top commanders, Abu Hamza of Egypt. Our Pakistani ally has arrested over 600 Al Qaeda terrorists, including top operatives of the September 11 attacks in America.
While visiting Paris, we were reminded of the global war as we read media reports of suicide bomber Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert to extremist Islam, who blew herself up in Baghdad on November 9. She had traveled through Syria to Baghdad to kill coalition troops, but failed and joined her late husband, who earlier had been killed for terrorist activities. The murderous couple was part of a terrorist cell the remaining members of which were arrested this week in Belgium. The actions of the foreign terrorists coming to kill in Iraq, following Al Qaeda leader al Zawahiri's October call to expel Americans from Iraq, clearly confirms that the enemies of humanity understand that this is a global war, not just an isolated disagreement between quarrelling sects in Iraq.
American Ambassador to France Craig Stapleton assured the delegation that we have improving relations with France. France is contributing significantly to peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan, and surprisingly, the French prime minister hinted that France may help train Iraqi police. In a nation which benefited significantly from Saddam Hussein's bribery of the Oil for Food scandal, this is a great accomplishment
From New Delhi to Islamabad to Paris, I am more grateful than ever for allies who benefit from the peace that stems from spreading freedom worldwide. President Bush's vision for a peaceful world in the multi-year conflict we face is achieving remarkable results. We must keep our resolve for victory, and work with allies like India to defeat global terrorists.
Addison 'Joe' Graves Wilson, the Republican Congressman from the Second Congressional District of South Carolina, was elected to the United States Congress in December 2001. He currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee, Education and Workforce Committee, Policy Committee and International Relations Committee. The 2003-2004 co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans is currently co-chair of the Congressional Caucuses on Bulgaria and Mongolia.