US Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama, while regretting that he could not meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to the United States, has said he very much looks forward "to doing so in the near future," and has expressed his "great admiration for the courage you showed in shepherding the civil nuclear cooperation agreement through your Parliament, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group."
In a missive to Dr Singh dated September 23 on the day of the prime minister's arrival in New York, and made available to rediff.com, Obama said at the outset, "I am very pleased that your visit provides us with the opportunity to strengthen the US-India relationship: deepening and broadening the friendship between our countries will be a first-order priority for me in the coming years. I am sorry that I was unable to meet with you on this trip, but very much look forward to doing so in the near future."
Before getting on to policy matters, Obama first offered his condolences to Dr Singh "on the painful losses your citizens have suffered in the recent string of terrorist assaults."
"As I have said publicly, I deplore and condemn the vicious attacks perpetrated in New Delhi earlier this month, and on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7. The death and destruction is reprehensible, and you and your nation have my deepest sympathy. These cowardly acts of mass murder are a stark reminder that India suffers from the scourge of terrorism on a scale few other nations can imagine."
"I will continue to urge all countries to cooperate with Indian authorities in tracking down the perpetrators of these atrocities. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," Obama pledged.
"I also want to take this opportunity to express my great admiration for the courage you showed in shepherding the civil nuclear cooperation agreement through your Parliament, the IAEA, and the NSG," he wrote, and pointed out, "I was pleased to vote by proxy for the agreement in (Senate Foreign Relations) Committee today, and I very much hope we can vote on this agreement before the US Congress goes out of session (the Senate voted overwhelming in favour of the deal on October 1 with Obama casting an aye vote)."
"As you know, there are some procedural obstacles that may prevent a vote this year," but he promised, "when it does come up for a vote, however, I will of course vote in favour. If time should run out in the current Congress, I will resubmit the agreement next year as president," Obama said.
"I strongly support civil nuclear cooperation, because I believe it will enhance our partnership and deepen our cooperation on a whole range of matters. Importantly, it will help India to meet its growing electricity demands while aiding in the important effort to combat global warming. But I see this agreement only as a beginning of a much closer relationship between our two great countries. I would like to see US-India relations grow across the board to reflect our shared interests, shared values, shared sense of threats, and ever burgeoning ties between our two economies and societies," he informed Dr Singh.
Obama then laid out his vision for US-India relations going forward by suggesting that "as a starting point, our common strategic interests call for redoubling US-Indian military, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation."
"The recent bombings remind us that we are both victims of terrorist attacks on our soil, and we share a common goal of defeating these forces of extremism," he pointed out.
Thus, Obama called for New Delhi and Washington to be in sync in terms of working together "to promote our democratic values and strengthen legal institutions in South Asia and beyond."
"We should also be working hand-in-hand to tap into the creativity and dynamism of our entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists to promote development of alternative sources of clean energy," he said.
"Imagine our two democracies in action: Indian laboratories and industry collaborating with American laboratories and industry to discover innovative solutions to today's energy problems. That the kind of new partnership I would like to build with India as president," he wrote.
Obama also expressed the hope "that a civil nuclear cooperation agreement can open the door to greater collaboration with India on non-proliferation issues," and informed Dr Singh that "this subject will be one of my highest priorities as president. I am committed to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and will make this a central element of US nuclear weapons policy."
"I will work with the US Senate to secure ratification of the international treaty banning nuclear weapons testing at the earliest practical day, and then launch a major diplomatic initiative to ensure its entry into force," he said.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was envisaged to be one of the major foreign policy successes of the Clinton administration, and president Clinton was on the verge of pressing India and Pakistan too into signing this treaty, but all of his plans were thwarted when the then Republican-controlled US Senate dumped this agreement and refused to endorse it, much to the embarrassment of Clinton and his administration.
In fact, at the time it was rumored that the Clinton administration was holding out India and Pakistan's acquiescence to signing the CTBT as a quid pro quo to the lifting of the punitive sanctions imposed against both New Delhi and Islamabad after their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May of 1998.
In his letter to Dr Singh, Obama vowed to "also pursue negotiation on a verifiable, multilateral treaty to end production of fissile material for nuclear weapons," known as the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
Obama said in conclusion that he very much hoped "and expect India will cooperate closely with the United States in these multilateral efforts," and argued that "with the benefits of nuclear cooperation come real responsibilities--and that should include steps to restrain nuclear weapons programs and pursuing effective disarmament when others do so."
"I greatly look forward to working with you on these and other issues in the future," he told Dr Singh