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Blackwill to quit as US envoy,
will return to academic career

April 21, 2003 10:18 IST

High-profile American Ambassador to India Robert D Blackwill on Monday announced his decision to return home to pursue his academic career at Harvard University at the end of a two-year term during which he sought to bring new dimensions in bilateral relations.

The 64-year old professor and a personal friend of President George W Bush said in a statement that he was returning to Harvard University's John F Kennedy School of Government near the end of this summer and had informed the president in January of his intention.

"I will thus join my illustrious colleague, John Kenneth Galbraith, in proudly representing my country for two years as American ambassador to India and then returning to Harvard to teach and to write," he said in a statement in Delhi adding the relationship between the two countries has a 'glittering future'.

Blackwill had succeeded Richard Celeste, another political appointee of former president Bill Clinton, in 2001 after Bush took over as US president.

His appointment was seen as a measure of the importance Bush attached to improving relations with India.

Blackwill had built a personal rapport with a number of Indian leaders, including Deputy Prime  Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani.

To play a part in advancing the bilateral ties under Bush's direction has been 'my duty, my pleasure and my encompassing strategic conviction', he said in the statement.

Blackwill's term saw heightened activity on the Indo-Pak front especially after the September 11 terror strikes and the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq leading to a number of US leaders to visit New Delhi.

Referring to his stint, Blackwill said he would in particular like to thank senior members of the Indian government for their 'unfailing generosity' in helping him carry out his official duties.

"I especially have in mind Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister Lal K Advani, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Defence Minister George Fernandes and Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra."

"I would also like to express my appreciation to the Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi for her many courtesies to me," he said.

Blackwill said in naming him as the envoy to this 'magnificent country', President Bush had done him a great honour.

"I have tried to justify his confidence by energetically promoting his vision of India as a rising great power of the 21st century, and his primary goal of the world's oldest and largest democracies operating together to transform their relations, to forge a concentrated strategic collaboration for the decades ahead," he said.

He said under the leadership of Bush and Vajpayee, Washington and New Delhi have made enormous strides to achieve this aim.

Before transformation of the US-India relationship began, it was rare for members of a president's cabinet and senior American officials to visit India.

"Almost a hundred have come in the past two years," he pointed out.

Two years back, there were US economic sanctions against India related to its 1998 nuclear tests. "Today, these sanctions are long gone."

Unlike two years back, when the militaries of the two countries conducted no joint operations, "today they have completed six major training exercises, and our defence cooperation flourishes."

Observing that the 'troubled past is behind us', he  expressed confidence that 'close and cooperative relations between the US and India will thrive in the decades ahead and most crucially because of the convergence of common democratic values and vital national interests'.

Blackwill said the two countries had 'overlapping vital national interests' in promoting peace and freedom in Asia, slowing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and combating international terrorism.

"As I have said many times during my stay in India, the fight against international terrorism will not be won until terrorism against India ends permanently. There can be no other legitimate stance by the US, no American compromise whatever on this elemental geopolitical and moral truth."

He went on to add that the US, India and all civilized nations must have zero tolerance for terrorism.

"We don't have a firm date (by which Blackwill is expected to leave) at present" nor any information on his successor, a US embassy spokesman said.

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