- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee yesterday proposed a new U.S.-Indian security relationship to a joint session of Congress, underscoring the dramatic tilt by Washington away from longtime ally Pakistan and the growing clout of an affluent Indo-American community.
Mr. Vajpayee said ties between the United States and India, a growing regional power, could help ensure stability in Asia.
"Security issues have cast a shadow on our relationship," Mr. Vajpayee told Congress. "I believe this is unnecessary. We have much in common and no clash of interests."
"India and the United States have taken a decisive step away from the past," he added.
Mr. Vajpayee, who addressed the congressional session while seated due to knee pain, never mentioned China in his speech. But Indian analysts, businessmen and diplomats said China was the principal regional threat a U.S.-Indian alliance would have to confront.
To achieve a more "democratic, prosperous, pluralistic and tolerant" Asia, said Mr. Vajpayee, "it is imperative for India and the United States to work together more closely… ."
"A strong, democratic and economically prosperous India, standing at the crossroads of all the major cultural and economic zones of Asia, will be an indispensable factor of stability in the region."
Mr. Vajpayee issued a veiled warning that India will never become subservient to the United States.
The fiercely independent nation of 1 billion people, with a 3,000-year-old civilization, has always rejected foreign interference.
"We seek an Asia where power does not threaten stability and security," he said. "We do not want the domination of some to crowd out the space for others.
"We must be prepared to accommodate our respective concerns," he added.
"We must have the mutual confidence to acknowledge our respective roles and complementary responsibilities in areas of vital importance to each of us."
Mr. Vajpayee, who made the decision to detonate five nuclear explosions in May 1998, triggering nuclear tests by rival Pakistan weeks later, is still rebuffing U.S. efforts to roll back the nuclear arms race in South Asia and to pressure India to sign international treaties on nuclear weapons.
The Indian leader will undergo knee surgery upon his return to New Delhi next week by an Indian-American doctor who examined him in New York last week during the U.N. Millennium Summit.
Mr. Vajpayee last week spoke by phone with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, an Indian official said.
Mr. Vajpayee is to meet President Clinton today at the White House and have lunch with Vice President Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, at the State Department.
Tomorrow he is slated to dedicate a statue to Indian philosopher and independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy.
Senators and representatives packed the House chamber and applauded frequently yesterday, especially when the Indian leader cited the success of the 1.5 million Indo-Americans, who have an average income far higher than the average American.
"I see in the outstanding success of the Indian community in America a metaphor of the vast potential that exists in India-U.S. relations and what we can achieve together," he said to an applauding chamber.
He hailed U.S. democracy and its ability to create a unified, prosperous nation out of disparate immigrants as a model for India.
"Out of the huddled masses that you welcomed to your shores you have created a great nation," he said.
The joint session as well as a luncheon at the Cannon House Office Building afterward were a sign of the growing clout of the Indian lobby.
The congressional India caucus has grown from four members in 1994 to more than 120 members today.
A Capitol Hill source said that Indo-American entrepreneurs and computer scientists in California's Silicon Valley have been contributing to both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. A few weeks ago, when Mr. Bush led in the polls and after the Republican platform included pro-India language, the money went mainly to Mr. Bush.
But now that the two candidates have pulled even, money goes to both, the source said.
But the Hill official was unable to give figures for the total cash contributed, saying, "They still have a lot to learn from the Jews and the Cubans" who monitor their contributions so they can call back for favors.
Mr. Vajpayee called for greater U.S. investment in power, insurance, banking and telecommunications, pledging that "trade barriers are being lowered."
On the sidelines of his visit, the U.S. Export-Import Bank announced an agreement with India to insure nearly $1 billion in U.S. exports to India.
But trade disputes with Washington remain. The nations have yet to work out their differences on a new round of global trade talks. The United States has also accused India of imposing a "de facto embargo" on U.S. shipments of soda ash, which is used to make glass.
U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky was to discuss these and other issues with India's minister of finance. But no breakthroughs were expected.

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