- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

Fast forward to Nov. 1, 2003. The Iraq war is over! Saddam Hussein is gone (Somewhere?)! We won! U.S. troops return to ticker- tape parades, the world bows to America's superpower with our citizens living in homeland peace forever after. Right? No, unfortunately, probably wrong.
After a seemingly inevitable and necessary war with Iraq, President George W. Bush may bask in victory. But Americans must also anticipate postwar chaos, as the Muslim world seethes with anti-American hatred, China and North Korea flex their muscle, the threat of terrorism increases and countries tell U.S. citizens and businesses to stay home. Add an economy stagnated by staggering war costs, declining foreign trade and an increasing deficit, and the fading dream reveals that the toughest decisions will follow a war wrapped in patriotism.
Post-Iraq, America will attempt to engage the Muslim world through diplomacy, but it must also send its Peace Corps volunteers, business leaders and college students with aid and assistance to placate those who hate us. More importantly, we will need to identify our friends and to stand by those countries that reflect our faith in democracy, human rights and religious freedom. When Mr. Bush woos his closest allies in the post-Iraq war era, India should be first among them.
I write from Bangalore in southern India, where the summer sun and the outlook for the town's software companies shine equally bright. India's unique workforce is trained and willing to tackle the intricate detail required to create software. The price is right, the world is outsourcing its software business here, and most of the software companies that dominate this town are reporting increased profits despite a global economic slowdown. As the ancient Silk Road linked India to the West, so the software trade links it to the United States. But these ties are not nearly close enough.
The United States for too long has treated India and Pakistan as equal allies in the region, when America would be better served if it set India and China side-by-side and gave India, a democracy of a billion people, the edge. Indians practice more religions than the populace of any other nation. Although they are almost 20 percent Muslim, they usually coexist peacefully in a climate of religious freedom. India, with the third-largest Muslim population in the world, has a Muslim president, yet religious fundamentalists do not control the country's agenda the way they do in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, America's preeminent allies in the region.
The Pentagon and the U.S. industrial-military lobby have tightly tied American foreign policy to the aforementioned countries that care little for democracy, human rights or religious tolerance. Populated by warring factions and a large fundamentalist population, Pakistan is a terrorism problem waiting to happen.
America must decidedly change its India-Pakistan policy: in particular, to side with democracy and human rights. We should then invite strategically located India to join us at the foreign policy altar.
Beginning with a state visit to New Delhi, Mr. Bush should acknowledge India as America's foremost friend in this corner of the world. Forming a free-trade zone with India the arrangement similar to NAFTA or the free-trade zones in Africa and, essentially, with Israel should follow. The United States must also reduce military aid to Pakistan and demand that Pakistan stop terrorist activities against India.
In Politics Among Nations, Hans Morgenthau suggests that one of the best ways to neutralize a rival power is to make good friends with its neighbor. Embracing India could, perhaps, push China toward democracy and a new respect for human rights. A political alliance with India in addition to a synergetic economic relationship would stimulate trade and boost America's economy. And, in the war on terrorism, this new partnership would prove America values a country that treats its Muslim minority well.
A billion Indian people of diverse faiths practice democracy and enjoy religious freedom. They look to courts for justice, respect human rights, and, in short, embody American values far more than our closest allies in this region. It is time for Mr. Bush to embrace India as a key ally, democratic torchbearer and trading partner for the sake of security in a post war world.

Larry Pressler, a senator from l979-1997, chaired the South Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and wrote the Pressler Amendment regarding nuclear parity between India and Pakistan.

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