The much-respected US Senator Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican, considered one of the most cerebral lawmakers in the US Congress, in a foreign policy agenda spelled out for the next president, has emphasized the strategic importance of India and argued that the US-India civilian nuclear deal was the crowning foreign policy achievement of the Bush Administration.
In a speech to the National Defense University, where he focused on energy security, trade, climate change and pro-active American leadership, Lugar, the ranking minority member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the nuclear agreement as "the success story," in an otherwise reservoir of foreign policy missteps and failures.
"By far, the most forward-looking foreign policy achievement of the current Administration was the recent nuclear agreement with India, which could free the US-India relationship from decades of contentiousness," he said.
Lugar said, "The benefits of this pact are designed to be a lasting incentive for India to abstain from further nuclear weapons tests and to cooperate closely with the United States in stopping proliferation. But the strategic benefits of the relationship extend far beyond the nuclear agenda."
He recalled that "in response to India's nuclear programme and tests of nuclear weapons, the United States has systematically denied broad categories of sensitive technology to India."
"From the Indian perspective," Lugar said, "US denial of these technologies limited their economic advancement and signaled to other nations that they could not be trusted."
According to the lawmaker, "One of the most important measures of trust between nations is the degree to which they are willing to sell sensitive technology to one another. By this measure, the United States, for decades, had placed India, into a lower tier of nations who were neither friends nor enemies. India responded by helping to lead the Non-aligned Movement in frequent opposition to US global initiatives at the United Nations and elsewhere."
Lugar said the nuclear deal recently signed was "the culmination of a process designed to open up broad categories of technological cooperation with India."
He acknowledged that "the agreement moves India into a far more advantageous position-- perhaps not equal to close allies like the United Kingdom, Japan, Israel and Australia--but near enough to accommodate a blossoming of economic and strategic cooperation."
Lugar said, "We have already received some benefits from this engagement," and spoke of India "taking a more positive outlook toward the US military presence in Afghanistan than it did originally."
"It supported our efforts to constrain Iran's nuclear program through its votes in the IAEA Board of Governors' in 2005 and 2006," he said, and added, "India has also taken a more supportive attitude toward the Proliferation Security Initiative, though it has thus far declined to join."
Lugar said, "The bottom line is that American efforts to shape the world are unlikely to succeed fully without the cooperation of India. Its sheer size ensures that it will have an enormous impact on the global economy."
He said, "The agreement gives us a better chance to cooperate with the Indians on limiting carbon emissions."
Lugar said the US has "a strong interest in expanding energy cooperation with India to develop new technologies, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and prepare for declining global fossil reserves".
"The United States' own energy problems will be exacerbated if we do not forge partnerships in India, China, and other nations experiencing rapid economic growth," he said.
Lugar also said besides the agreement also improving "our access to the burgeoning information technology industry in India," more importantly it "strengthens our position related to strategic issues pertaining to China, on which, India is naturally predisposed to be with us."
According to the lawmaker, "A close relationship with India, gives us more diplomatic leverage in preventing flare-ups of the conflict between India and Pakistan further down the road."
"It is reasonable to expect greater conventional military cooperation with the Indians as they buy more of our weapons," Lugar said. "This could be critical to areas of joint interest, such as counterterrorism and the suppression of piracy."
He predicted that "with a well-educated middle class that is larger than the entire US population, India can be an anchor of stability in Asia and a center of economic growth."
Lugar said, "By concluding this pact, the US has embraced a long-term outlook that will give us new diplomatic options. It is an opportunity to build a strategic partnership with the nation that shares our democratic values and will exert increasing influence on the world stage."