United States President George W Bush, on the eve of his trip to India and Pakistan, declared that US had an ambitious agenda with India, and noted that its agenda was also practical.
"It builds on a relationship that has never been better. India is a global leader as well as a good friend and I look forward to working with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to address other difficult problems such as HIV/AIDS, pandemic flu and the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions," Bush said while addressing the members of the Asia Society at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington,DC.
Bush predicted that his trip will remind everybody about the strengthening of an important strategic partnership. He pledged that both countries will work together in practical ways to promote a hopeful future for citizens in both the nations.
He outlined his plans for his forthcoming visit to India and Pakistan. He said India and the US will be holding extensive dliberations on five broad areas:
- Defeating terrorism.
- Promoting democracy.
- Improving economic ties.
- Health, environment and climate control.
- Nuclear energy co-operation.
President George W Bush said the implementation of the US-India civilian nuclear deal will take time and patience by both countries, and called on New Delhi to produce a credible, transparent and defensible separation plan of its civilian and military nuclear facilities to help make the deal a reality.
Bush recalled that 'India and the United States took a bold step forward last summer when we agreed to a civil nuclear initiative that will provide India access to civilian nuclear technology and bring its civilian programs under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.'
Bush acknowledged that this was not an easy decision for India, nor was it an easy decision for the United States, and implementing this agreement will take time and patience.
"Thus I continue to encourage India to produce a credible, transparent, and defensible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs," he said, adding, "By following through on our commitments we will bring India's civil nuclear program into international mainstream and strengthen the bonds of trust between our two great nations."
President Bush reiterated that India was a key ally in US' war against terror and that both countries were working together to end global terror.
Referring to the Strategic Partnership Accord reached between the US and India in July last year, Bush said this included fight against the threat of terrorism and enhanced cooperation among the law enforcement agencies to make air travel safer, combat cyber crimes and bio-terrorist attacks.
Appreciating India's contrubution to the development of war-ravaged Afghanistan, the US President said India was helping it in many ways, including developing roads and also building that country's National Assembly. India and the US, he said, wanted to defeat terrorism and the ideology of hatred and replace it with the ideology of hope.
He also praised India's commitment to democracy and global peace. Appreciating India's effort to rebuild Afghanistan, Bush said India's multi-ethnic democracy was an inspiration to other nations.
President Bush said India and Pakistan now had 'a historic opportunity to work toward lasting peace' and served notice that during his meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf he will 'encourage them to address this important issue' of resolving the Kashmir imbroglio.
Acknowledging that the issue of Kashmir would be on his agenda during his talks in both New Delhi and Islamabad, Bush said, "We are pleased that India and Pakistan are beginning to work together to resolve their differences directly. India and Pakistan are increasing direct links between their countries, including their rail line that has been closed for four decades."
"The governments of India and Pakistan are now engaged in dialogue about the difficult question of Kashmir," he said, bemoaning, "For too long Kashmir has been a source of violence and distrust between these two coutnries. But I believe that India and Pakistan now have an historic opportunity to work toward lasting peace."
"America supports a resolution in Kashmir that is acceptable to both sides," he added.
In his remarks earlier, Bush spoke of 'the great changes that are taking place inside India and Pakistan,' and lauded the transformation it was helping to make in the relationship between both countries.
The President noted in particular, what he described as 'one encouraging sign' that followed the devastating earthquake in Pakistan, when India offered assistance to Pakistan and President Musharraf accepted it. India sent tents, blankets, food and medicine, and the plane that delivered the first load of supplies was the first Indian cargo aircraft to land in Islamabad since the 1971 war.
He urged both Delhi and Islamabad to take advantage of this opening to move beyond conflict and come together on other issues where they share common interests. Bush said that in this regard, the relations that the two countries share with America can help both nations in their quest for peace.
"Not long ago, there was so much distrust between India and Pakistan that when America had good relations with one, it made the other one nervous. Changing that perception has been one of our Administration's top priorities and we are making good progress," he said.
On Pakistan, its key ally in the war on terror, Bush said the United States wants to build a broad strategic partnership with the people of that country. Lavishing praise on President Pervez Musharraf, he termed him a courageous leader who had faced several assassination attempts for waging a war against terrorist elements.
Bush said US and Pakistan will continue to cooperate with each other to defeat terrorism and noted that Islamabad is a modern state that respects the role of Islam. Though Pakistan has a more or less free press and its citizens enjoy civil liberties, there are instances of interference by its security forces at times, he said.
Bush said the elections scheduled for next year in Pakistan will be a test of its commitment to democracy.
The US President spoke about the growing influence of India in the world arena as well. He said the Indo-US cooperation will make the world more secure.
Observing that India needed clean energy, Bush said the US would also work with India towards zero emission coal fired plants. At the same time, it wanted less dependence on fossil fuels whose prices were rising because of global demand, he said.
On the issue of outsourcing, Bush agreed that Americans had lost jobs and that these were traumatic for their families. But instead of bringing in protectionist policies, it will be better to depend on education policies that trains people for jobs in the 21st century, he said.
On trade, he said the US had a $1.8 billion surplus in services, which made US companies more competitive. India, with over its billion people, was a major consumer for US companies and big business for Americans, he said. The US leader said India's order to buy 68 planes from Boeing at a price of $11 billion was the biggest deal for India's civilian aviation industry.
With PTI inputs