'Bilateral relations with the US truly multi-faceted'

'Bilateral relations with the US truly multi-faceted'


In an interview with B S Arun and Anirban Bhaumik of Deccan Herald, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao speaks about the agenda for the PM’s visit and India’s position vis-à-vis Obama administration’s non-proliferation policy. She also speaks about India’s relations with its two neighbours – China and Pakistan. Excerpts:

Manmohan Singh will be in the US as the first State guest of the Obama administration. What are the issues on the agenda?
Our bilateral interaction with the US has become truly multi-faceted. We have agreed on a more broad-based agenda for bilateral cooperation with five key components of science, technology health and innovation; strategic cooperation; energy and climate change; education and development and economics, trade and agriculture. The PM’s visit to the US is going to be the first State visit by a foreign dignitary after President Obama took office. It is logical in the current global situation that our two democracies should work together to take the bilateral ties to a higher level, as strategic partners.

It is our intention that the PM’s visit to the US will chart the future course of our ties and enhance collaboration in all fields, including the struggle against terrorism, trade, economics, science and technology, energy and education. A number of bilateral agreements are likely to be concluded during the visit. Ours is also a people-centred relationship. 

Is India feeling a sense of unease as Obama administration  is pursuing the non-proliferation agenda with renewed vigour and stepping up pressure on countries that have not signed the CTBT and NPT to do so?
It is well known that India and the US have different views on the NPT. It is not unusual for major powers to have different perspectives on issues. The important thing is that India and the US, despite this difference of perspective on the NPT, have agreed to work together in pursuit of shared objectives including civil nuclear energy. This is a long overdue recognition of India's unique status and record on nuclear issues. As a responsible nuclear weapon state, we would be happy to work with the US and other nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states to realise the vision of a nuclear weapon free world. Our position on the CTBT is also well known. We are committed to a unilateral, voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing.

India’s relations with China has come under focus over the past few weeks. Do you think it is getting more complicated? When can we expect the vexed boundary issue to be resolved?
Our relationship with China is complex, but growing variegated in texture and substance. The rapid growth of both India and China is a phenomenon that in many ways is a source of energy and dynamism in the regional and global context. I see our dialogue with China acquiring further substance and relevance in the years to come. We are going to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our relationship next year. We are trying to enhance our bilateral cooperation in a number of areas – like trade, counter-terrorism measures and climate change.

Political will exists in both countries to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the outstanding boundary question. The maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas will receive close and continuing attention in this scenario. We are however conscious of the fact that outstanding issues in our relationship with China will take time to be resolved.

How does India view growing ties between China and our other neighbours like Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh?
China’s ties with our South Asian neighbours are growing in many areas, with increased trade and economic activity, political-level interaction apart from transportation links and connectivity. But the compelling logic and rationale for closer ties between our South Asian neighbours and India must not be deterred or diluted by such developments. These are the ties dictated by geography, the need for security and stability, mutual economic advantage, shared cultural traditions etc.
A year has passed since 10 terrorists from Pakistan carried out the deadly attacks in Mumbai.

Looking back, how do you evaluate India’s post 26/11 diplomatic campaign against terrorism emanating from Pakistan?
After a significantly prolonged period of denial and diversionary tactics including conjuring up the spectre of an India-Pakistan military conflict, Pakistan finally acknowledged and admitted on Feb 12 that the attack on Mumbai was planned and launched from Pakistan. Pakistan has acknowledged that evidence unearthed there points to the involvement of the five accused Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives who are under Pakistani custody. Islamabad has admitted that the LeT launched the attacks from Pakistan with the contributions of various accused Pakistani nationals in planning, preparation, financing, logistics, training and facilitating the attack.

Is there any possibility of India reviewing its stand of not resuming composite dialogue process (CDP) with Pakistan till the latter takes credible action to curb anti-India terrorism emanating from its territory?
The PM has clearly articulated our position. The CDP had been paused immediately after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. While we want to normalise our relations with Pakistan, we are very clear that any meaningful dialogue with it can only be based on fulfilment of its commitment, in letter and spirit, not to allow its territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India. It is not true that we have not been talking to Pakistan at all. There have been many bilateral meetings in the last one year. So, we have not shut the door on dialogue with Pakistan.

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