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One thing that Obama, Romney agree on -- India

July 26, 2012 16:41 IST
Despite differences over various foreign policy issues, both President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney share a common ground when it comes to the United States policy of support towards India and Japan, key members of both the campaigns have said.

The Obama and Romney campaigns, during a discussion hosted by the Brookings Institute, a prestigious Washington-based think-tank, also appeared to be agreeing over their policy towards Pakistan.

"I think this (India) is an area where we've had a lot of, frankly, continuity and bipartisan support. India is an important security partner today. Our military relationship has never been closer. That is growing," said Michele Flournoy, co-chair of the National Security Advisory Committee of Barack Obama's 'Obama for America' campaign.

Referring to joint military exercises between India and the United States, Flournoy said New Delhi "exercises more" with the US than with any other country and both the countries were growing their cooperative efforts on counter piracy and other things in the Indian Ocean.

Terming India a "very powerful partner" of the US in Asia with which it shares a number of "common values", Flournoy said the Obama Administration has "invested a lot" in the relationship between the two nations. "The president's first state dinner was for the Indian prime minister," she said.

Rich Williamson, senior adviser for foreign and defence policy of 'Romney for President' campaign, also agreed with Flournoy's views and praised the Bush administration for "strengthening and renewing" relationship with India.

On Pakistan, both agreed that the situation in Pakistan is difficult and relationship is complicated one, with Williamson arguing that the US should look at conditionality for its aid to Pakistan, given its continued tolerance to the Taliban forces.

Flournoy said Washington's relation with Pakistan should be concerned with the "fragility" of the governing situation in the state of Pakistan.

"You only have to look at what's happened on the civilian side and some of the dynamics between the civilian side and the military to be concerned about the long-term future of Pakistan and its democracy," she said.

Noting that "safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal" has always been an "issue of concern", Flournoy, however, held that Pakistan has worked on the issue and the situation has "improved" over the years due to "cooperative efforts" in this regard.

Williamson, agreeing to Flournoy's views, termed Pakistan's situation as "enormously difficult". "Between the intelligence, the army, the civilians, the religious factions, it is a barely functioning state. They have got nuclear weapons that are extremely dangerous. And there's no simple answer," he said.

"He (Romney) has said, with respect to their tolerance in their western region of Taliban forces, we should look at conditionality for our foreign aid, but that's pretty much what his position has been on Pakistan," Williamson said. He said that the US must stop aid to Pakistan if it continues to "tolerate" activities of the Taliban and other factions, resulting in death of US soldiers.

Flournoy termed Japan also as a critical ally and held that extension of "help" by the US to Tokyo during the devastating tsunami of 2011 has "solidified" their relationship further.

"So I think both of those relationships (with India and Japan) are very vibrant and very strong under this have continued to be so under in the last three years, the last four years," Flournoy said.

Williamson asserted that Romney recognises the importance of Japan and the Republic of Korea to the US both from the security and economic perspective and has expressed his desire to strengthen and work on that relationship.

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