M A I N   N E W S

Indo-US relations set for a new high
To expand cooperation in nuke activities, trade and technology
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13
Indo-US strategic partnership shifted gears today as the two countries agreed to increase cooperation in three of the ultra-sensitive Quartet Issues of civilian nuclear activities, civilian programmes and high technology trade while agreeing to expand their dialogue on the fourth and most vital issue: missile defence.

The improvement in ties between New Delhi and Washington was also reflected by the fact that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and US President George W Bush issued identical statements— Mr Vajpayee from here and Mr Bush from Monterrey, Mexico— in which they said that their vision of the Indo-US strategic partnership “is now becoming a reality”.

Today’s developments are demonstrative of a total turnaround in the Indo-US relationship which had received a huge setback in the wake of India’s Pokhran-II nuclear blasts in May 1998 which led to American sanctions on India. More importantly, the Indo-US thaw has come about despite the fact that New Delhi has not reversed or changed its nuclear and defence policies.

In the identical statements issued today, Mr Vajpayee and Mr Bush also vowed to strengthen measures to increase bilateral and international cooperation in combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and said relevant laws, regulations and procedures would be adopted to achieve this objective.

Mr Vajpayee said: “The vision of the India-US strategic partnership that President Bush and I share is now becoming a reality”.

The identical statements said the proposed cooperation would progress through a series of reciprocal steps that would build on each other. “It will include expanded engagement on nuclear regulator and safety issues and missile defence, ways to enhance cooperation in peaceful uses of space technology and steps to create appropriate environment for successful high technology commerce.”

“These cooperative efforts will be undertaken in accordance with our respective national laws and

international obligations,” the two leaders said, adding that the the expanded cooperation launched today was “an important milestone in transforming relationship between India and the USA.”

The statement also said cooperation between the two countries included expanded engagement on nuclear regulatory safety issues and missile defence, ways to enhance cooperation in peaceful uses of space technology, and steps to create the appropriate environment for successful high technology commerce.

Mr Vajpayee said the relationship between India and the USA was based increasingly on common values and common interests. “We are working together to promote global peace and prosperity. We are partners in the war against terrorism and we are partners in controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.”

While referring to the Quartet issues, Mr Vajpayee and Mr Bush said: “Cooperation in these areas will deepen the ties of commerce and friendship between our two nations and will increase stability in Asia and beyond.”

The statement comes ahead of the visit to Washington by External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. The minister, who leaves on January 18, will hold wide-ranging discussions with key Bush administration officials. During this visit, Mr Sinha would meet Mr Powell and top US interlocutors to discuss bilateral and international developments.

Meanwhile, foreign office spokesman Navtej Sarna, in response to a query whether the USA was actively involved in promoting India-Pakistan dialogue as apparently suggested by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, said: “India discusses major foreign policy issues with friendly countries as part of normal diplomatic interaction. The USA has offered its good offices to promote India-Pakistan dialogue. However, on India-Pakistan bilateral issues there has been no scope for any third party role in the past. It is not likely to be there in future either.”

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