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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

INDIA'S INTERESTS

India will take "counter-measures" to protect its security if regional rival Pakistan tries to install a Muslim fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan, India's former foreign secretary warned in an article previewing President Obama's trip to New Delhi in November.

Shyam Saran urged Prime MinisteManmohan Singh to use the Nov. 7-10 summit meeting with Mr. Obama to "convey to the U.S., frankly and forthrightly, that India has certain over-riding interests to safeguard in the Af-Pak theater." ("Af-Pak" is diplomatic shorthand for Afghanistan-Pakistan regional issues.)

"India will not allow Pakistan to define its security extra-territorially and have a veto over what polity rules Afghanistan. If [Pakistan] does, then India will take counter-measures to protect its interests," he wrote in an analysis distributed Tuesday by U.S.-India Friendship.net.

"A fundamentalist regime in Kabul which once again makes Afghanistan a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism is not acceptable. The U.S. needs to factor this into its calculations."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Mr. Saran, foreign secretary from 2004 to 2006 and an adviser to Mr. Singh on nuclear and climate issues until February, outlined the broad scope of U.S.-Indian relations and urged each side to pursue "big ideas" in their vast bilateral interests.

"Both in India and the U.S., there is a search for the next 'big thing' in our relations, similar to the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement," he wrote.

The agreement was a breakthrough in U.S.-India relations under President George W. Bush. The United States agreed to supply India with nuclear-power technology, while India agree to separate its military and civilian nuclear programs and allow international inspections of the nuclear power plants.

Mr. Saran noted that the United States sees "India as a rapidly growing continental-sized economy," with "significant and expanding military capabilities."

"Both [countries] looked upon the emergence of China as a major challenge, not to be contained as in the Cold War days, but to be engaged in a manner that enhanced the prospects of a peaceful, plural and balanced security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region," he wrote.

Mr. Obama also underscored the importance of U.S.-India relations in a speech last week to mark the country's 63rd anniversary of its independence from Britain.

"Ever since Aug. 15, 1947, India's nonviolent struggle for freedom, its rejection of terrorism and extremism and its belief in democracy, tolerance and the rule of law have been an inspiration and beacon of hope to people around the world," he said.

In New Delhi, U.S. Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer praised India's cooperation with the United States in the fight against terrorism.

"We are natural allies, as both countries are steadfast against terrorism born from the experience of horrific attacks in New York and Mumbai," he wrote last week in the Hindustan Times.

AUSSIES HUNG

Jeffrey Bleich, the U.S. ambassador to Australia, said Tuesday that he watched from "the sidelines" as Australians went to the polls over the weekend and elected their first hung Parliament in nearly 70 years.

As the two leading parties, Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition, try to form a government by recruiting minor-party leaders, Mr. Bleich said, he is optimistic about U.S.-Australian relations regardless of who leads the country.

"What is reassuring about all this is our confidence that regardless of the outcome, the mutual commitment between the United States and Australia will remain strong," he wrote on his online journal on the embassy's Web site (canberra.usembassy.gov/).

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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