Washington: Ahead of President Barack Obama’s India trip next week, a top US official on Thursday said India’s rise and its strength and progress on the global stage is deeply in the strategic interest of the United States.
“The US-Indian partnership for a number of years has been a genuine bipartisan priority in Washington. Same is true in India. Over the last decade, through three administrations of both of our parties and two Indian governments of different parties, we’ve transformed the relationship,” under secretary of state for political affairs Bill Burns said.
“India’s rise and its strength and progress on the global stage is deeply in the strategic interest of the United States,” he told reporters at a special White House briefing.
Burns said President Obama has called Indo-US ties a defining partnership of the 21st century, and in many ways the two countries are “natural partners”.
“We’re the world’s two largest democracies. We’re both big, diverse, tolerant societies. We’re two of the world’s largest economies. We both have an increasing stake in global stability and prosperity, especially across Asia and the Pacific,” he observed.
Noting that the defence cooperation between the two countries is expanding in ways that were hard to imagine a decade ago, he said India now holds more defence exercises every year with the US than it does with any other country.
“Some $4 billion in defence sales have been made by the US to India over the last couple of years alone, with more possibilities ahead. India is today one of the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping forces,” he said.
“We have a lot to gain by working together in high- tech cooperation and innovation. The civilian nuclear deal that was completed at the end of the last administration removed the single biggest irritant in our relationship and opened the door to wider cooperation. We’ve worked hard in this administration to follow through and completing, for example, a reprocessing agreement between the US and India six months ahead of schedule,” he said.
“We look forward to US companies contributing to Indian civil nuclear development. And the signing today by the Indian government in Vienna of the Convention on Supplemental Compensation is a very positive step toward ensuring that international standards apply and that US companies are going to have a level playing field on which to compete,” he said.
”We’re also making progress on cooperation in space and updating export controls to reflect the reality of a 21st Century partnership in which India is treated as a partner and not as a target. It is important to stress that the growth of our partnership is about not just ties between governments, but deepening connections between our societies.
“Today, there are more than 1,00,000 Indian students in American universities, more than from any other single foreign country; 3 million Indian-Americans play a very vibrant role in American society; and, as Mike said, bilateral trade has quadrupled in the last decade,” Burns said.
“The fact that the president will spend three days in India, the longest single foreign visit of his presidency so far; the fact that this follows the first state visit of the Obama presidency by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year; the fact that India is the first stop on a trip to four major Asian democratic partners, I think all of that underscores the significance and the potential of Indian-American partnership,” said the top American diplomat.