- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2001

The United States and India are to begin military cooperation after a break of almost three years, beginning with a visit to New Delhi by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later this month, Indian and U.S. officials said yesterday.
Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh said the decision follows a visit to Washington by Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh in early April, which came at a time of high tension between the United States and Indias regional rival, China.
Such cooperation, never before conducted at a significant level, was cut off completely along with other sanctions after Indias nuclear tests in May 1998.
News agency reports yesterday said the Bush administration also would lift those other sanctions, a move Mr. Mansingh said was needed to clear the way for weapons purchases and cooperation on nuclear energy and space.
"The genie cant be put back in the bottle," Mr. Mansingh told editors and reporters during a luncheon interview at The Washington Times. "We have to get beyond and look at common strategic interests."
Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is to visit India to work on "a closer relationship" between the two nations military forces, said Mr. Mansingh.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is to visit India separately this month to consult on the Bush administration plan to build a missile defense system and possibly abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
India yesterday welcomed key aspects of the Bush missile plan, citing in a press release "unilateral reductions by the U.S. of nuclear forces" and moving away from "hair-trigger alerts."
While some critics of the missile plan have said it would likely impel China to expand its nuclear missile stockpiles, the ambassador said that at present India did not fear such an outcome.
At the time of the Indian nuclear tests, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said its nuclear weapons were not developed to fight its old enemy Pakistan but to deter China from aggression.
India lost a 1962 border war with China, which continues to hold Indian-claimed land and insists that other large chunks of Indian territory are really Chinese.
United Press International reported yesterday that the Bush administration had assured India it will soon lift the economic sanctions imposed after the 1998 nuclear tests.
Treasury Secretary Paul H. ONeill conveyed the decision at a recent meeting with Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who was in Washington for World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, UPI said.
Mr. Mansingh said that if sanctions end on military and some scientific cooperation, India hopes to work on nuclear power with U.S. companies in an effort to provide energy to its rapidly growing economy without using polluting coal, the ambassador said.
On the military side, he said, India was interested in developing service-to-service relations, cooperation on military doctrine and training, and the co-production and sale of weapons.
India had tried previously and been denied the right to purchase Harpoon anti-ship missiles and gun-locating radars, he said.
The U.S.-Indian military talks began last month, despite the sanctions, when Jaswant Singh, who serves as both foreign and defense minister, met in Washington with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Singh also met President Bush in an unexpected White House encounter April 6, at the height of the crisis over the detention on Chinas Hainan island of a 24-member American air crew.
Mr. Singh was meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice when Mr. Bush dropped in and then invited Mr. Singh to the Oval Office for a 45-minute chat, said the ambassador.
"We were pretty impressed," said Mr. Mansingh of Mr. Bushs understanding of Indian affairs. "He spoke fluently and did not ask aides to help him out."
He described Mr. Bush as "a person who consciously downplays himself."
U.S.-Indian military ties are warming after 50 years of Cold War mistrust — during which Pakistan was pro-Western and India was considered pro-Soviet — in part because of mutual concern over the intentions of China.
The United States is upset over Chinas detention of the 24 fliers for 11 days last month and its refusal to return a surveillance plane, which landed after a collision with a Chinese jet. Tension is also high over Taiwan, human rights, Tibet and Chinese detention of U.S. academics.
The Indian ambassador refused to say that growing cooperation with the United States was aimed at deterring China.
A U.S. official, who confirmed the U.S. intention to draw closer to India and start military cooperation, also refused to say it was in any way related to U.S. squabbles with China.
"It serves no purpose to craft a security alliance directed against China," said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"If you go around Asia and try to drum up an alliance against China it would defeat our goals. We want China to integrate into the world economy and become a peaceful player."
The Bush administration has begun a review of foreign policy, and its policies toward South Asia are being discussed at present, U.S. officials said.
One of the key demands of the Clinton administration has already been scrapped — that India sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a pact the Republican administration opposes.
Some members of the Bush administration's Pentagon staff served during the Cold War when Pakistan was a key ally against the Soviets in Afghanistan and even earlier, when U-2 spy flights over Russia were based in Pakistan.
However, Pakistans decline into martial law in 1999, its allowing terrorist groups to attack Indian-held Kashmir, its support for the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and chronic corruption and economic stagnation have made it less attractive as an ally.
India, meanwhile, has since the end of the Cold War embraced free-market reforms, chosen the United States as its main trading partner and retained its role as the worlds largest democracy.
In addition, 1 million Indian-Americans have become wealthy and leaders of the Silicon Valley high-technology boom, pouring millions of their profits into political campaign contributions to both Mr. Bushs and Vice President Al Gores campaigns last year.
The Indian-Americans have formed a lobby second in influence only to that of Israel, say experts.


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