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Home > News > Report

'Intellectual exercises will strengthen Indo-US ties'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 07, 2007 16:46 IST

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Lieutenant General (retired) J F R Jacob was the star of the show at a conference hosted by the Indian American Security Leadership Council on Capitol Hill. He impressed with his Ariel Sharon (former Israeli army chief and erstwhile prime minister)-like personality and demeanor, not to mention his war stories and pillorying of the US invasion of Iraq. Retred Admiral K K Nayyar and retired Air Marshal B D Jayal also had their moments at the conference.

Nayyar said that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was "the tallest political leader not only in India but I would say the whole of Asia," for his proposition that the US and India were "natural allies."

"He is so right. We live at diametrically opposite ends of the world -- you live in the most stable area, we live in the most unstable area of the world. You are technology-wise -- the leader of the world -- you have ample capital and resources and all that is required for taking the world forward."

 "We are deficient in technology and capital, but we are a source of stability in a highly unstable area. So our interests complement each other and therefore Vajpayee was right in putting forward this proposition."

But, he argued that military exercises between the two countries would be insufficient to realise this proposition.

Nayyar said that such exercises "are small things," and military cooperation "is a very much smaller component of national alliance and working together for the uplift of the global community and both of us have a huge stake in it."

He opined that more interaction and "intellectual exercises and not so much the military exercises" would help "us understand each other and how we govern ourselves, and how we face the rest of the world and what are the problems of managing our own political systems."

He asserted that "to create stability in the political environment is the most essential environment. Now, when we mesh our relationship with the rest of the world, it is essential for our partners to realise what are our domestic compulsions which we have to take into account, just as we have to be very cognizant of the fact that there are domestic compulsions of our partners."

Jayal hammered in the importance of taking the public into confidence, and recalled that in the context of the Indo-US  Defense Framework Agreement which was signed by then Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a visit to Washington in 2005, he had told the press on leaving for the US that "actually nothing was going to happen here and then he signed a very important document."

Saying many in the media and commentators at the time had wondered "what the secrecy was all about," Jayal said, "I raise this point because being democracies, it is very important that when our leaderships are taking such historical steps forward, the public has to be kept informed because specially in our country it is not easy to mange the many contradictions, both within the media and the political spectrum."

He was of the opinion that the current opposition to the US-India civilian nuclear deal in both India and the US was a reflection of both countries actually not having cooperated for the past 50 years "in the military and strategic spheres."

Thus, Jayal said, "To achieve this sort of strategic partnership, there is a certain amount of candor which is needed between our two sides."

And while he acknowledged that it is important "that our militaries continue to exercise and work together to understand each other's strategic outlooks." He, however, was of the opinion that since both India and the US "have divergent priorities and interests, it is therefore at this juncture, premature to categorise our relationship as a strategic one. We are working towards that, but presently we are taking more tactical steps than strategic ones."

While agreeing that clearly "the foundations of an Indo-US strategic partnership are being laid," he said it is imperative that "we must understand the limitations that India's democracy places on us."

"It is therefore important for the Indian side that we take the public's opinions and not give an impression that there are things happening, which are either not quite up-front or behind the back," he said.