Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal's address at Carnegie.

To listen to the Question and Answer session from the event, click here.

Full Transcript

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at Carnegie Endowment for Peace among so many distinguished scholars of international relations to speak about India and United States and the areas of security in which we can work together.

I am delighted to renew my association with Washington, where I spent three years on a tour of duty in the early 1990s. There has been a remarkable change in India-US relations since then. At that time, we were told that our problem was that India was not even a blip on the White House radar screen. Why the second largest country in the world in terms of demography and the seventh largest in terms of geographic size, and what is more, a democracy of remarkable resilience sharing so many values that Americans hold so dear should not have registered on the White House radar screen is something that can be explained but not necessarily understood. Anyhow, today there is a real transformation underway in the quality and intensity of our consultation and cooperation. The world’s most powerful and the most populous democracies are now purposefully seeking to work together in several important ways.

In the early 1990s, there was a general expectation that the end of the Cold War, the triumph of democracy, and the economic promise of globalization, would usher in a new era of peace, freedom and prosperity. The reality is that there are too many divides, too many fractures, too much disparity, too much imbalance in power, too much inequality in our collective life as an international community for people not to threaten and not to fear. The security challenges in an imperfect world will not disappear, more so as a sense of insecurity is both an objective reality as well as a state of mind. The more you have the more you want to secure it from those who may want to take it away from you. Unfortunately, problems never go away, only their nature changes. Not surprisingly, therefore, today many security challenges, some new and some old ones in new forms, command our collective attention. Though we know what we have left behind, we are uncertain about what lies ahead of us. It is on the intersection of these two developments – transforming India-US relations and new security challenges – that I share my thoughts with you today.

Let me first speak about the texture of our new relationship. More than four years ago, in September 1998, even as India-US relations were in a state of freeze, our Prime Minister described this relationship as one between “natural allies”. Last September, President Bush spoke of developing a strategic relationship with India as a component of the US national security strategy. President Clinton in March 2000 and President Bush in November 2001, together with Prime Minister Vajpayee, affirmed their commitment to set the relationship on a new course.

In the past two years, despite all the demands of our respective immediate challenges, we have sustained an unprecedented level of bilateral engagement. This growing dialogue is enlarging the areas of understanding and expanding the territory of trust and confidence. It is not merely restricted to political leaders and senior levels of the two governments. There is a constant two-way traffic of officials between Washington and Delhi. And, in recent years we have put in place over twenty institutional forums and working groups, for which the two governments run the risk of hearing the familiar accusation of bureaucratic proliferation! It is, however, helping India and the United States develop a new habit of political consultation on all developments of regional and global importance and developing cooperation in diverse fields. In the course of the past two days, I have discussed regional and international political and security developments with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Global Issues with Under Secretary Dobriansky, high technology commerce with Under Secretary Juster and Under Secretary Douglas Feith in the Pentagon.

Nowhere has this engagement grown more than in the area of defence and, given the near absence of any defence cooperation in the past, the change has been nothing short of dramatic. The large combined exercises that we conducted last year in India and the United States, the naval escort that we provided to US ships moving through the Straits of Malacca from April to September 2002, the nature of exchanges that we have between top military personnel are in many ways entirely new developments in India’s external defence relations anywhere in the world. Our counter-terrorism working group has served as a model for similar engagement that both of us have with other countries. Last year, India and the United States launched a new initiative in cyber security to address the vulnerabilities of our increasingly wired world.

From the consultations on missile defence to signing an agreement on non-surrender of each others citizens to international tribunals, from supporting a consensus on the IAEA resolution on North Korea to advancing UN initiatives ranging from terrorism to peacekeeping, India and the United States are working to accommodate each other’s interests and address common challenges.

The United States is our largest trading partner, the principal destination of our IT services exports and the major source of foreign investment, and we attach great importance to developing this relationship further. Although the trade and investment figures are nowhere near their potential, we can, perhaps, draw encouragement for the future from the many examples of successful collaborations and from the recent figures, which, in contrast to a general decline in the United States’ external trade, saw growth of 20% in India’s merchandise exports to the United States and 7% increase in US exports to India, as also a more robust growth in service trade.

India and the United States are two nations blessed with many skills and talents. Our partnerships of the Information Age are a metaphor of the possibilities that we have for harnessing the power of knowledge and science for our common good. If information technology saw unprecedented progress in the United States, its innovative use in India in healthcare, managing livestocks, farming and distance education is helping us to discover that the power of information technology to change the lives of people is constrained not by resources but by imagination and motivation. In the past, despite the vicissitudes of our political relations, our cooperation helped pioneer revolution in agriculture and scientific education, use of space technology for remote education, and spread of clean and renewable energy. Today, India and US scientists are together developing vaccines for fighting communicable diseases and will apply their space research capabilities for weather studies, tele-medicines and sustainable economic development.

Impressive as the progress has been, we have to continue managing the process of translating the political commitment of qualitatively transforming relations into a working reality. An important aspect of this process must be the realization that we will not always have identity of views on all issues and sometimes differences of approach rather than on the goals, given our different geo-strategic and economic contexts. We must, however, share our perspectives in candid and transparent manner, sensitive to each other’s interests, and without letting them spill over into other areas or affecting the overall pattern of relations. As our dialogue expands and deepens – and, in recent months, for example, we have consulted extensively on Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia; the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, China, East Asia, North Korea – this approach assumes greater importance. In the midst of the many challenges that India and the United States have each faced in the past two years, we have tried to pursue our relationship based on this understanding.

For too long, India’s pursuit of its security needs was a point of significant political difference and a reason for US constraints on scientific and technological cooperation with India. Although a deep and intense engagement in recent years has enlarged our understanding on security and non-proliferation issues, it has not completely resolved the outstanding differences. The dialogue that we have had, especially in the past six months, demonstrates – at least from our perspective – that what separates us on these issues is not interests or approach but a historical point in time that put us on the opposite sides of a legal divide.

Our nuclear posture is based on no first use, non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states and a credible minimum deterrent. We continue to maintain a moratorium on further nuclear tests and have reiterated our commitment to participating in the multilateral negotiations for FMCT. Our strategic forces are under the control of civilian political leadership. India has no desire to enter into a nuclear arms race with anyone. We do not, as our doctrine demonstrates, see nuclear weapons as a coercive instrument or one of blackmail in international relations, either with our neighbours or anyone else.

Over the past several decades, maintaining strict controls on our nuclear and missile capabilities has been a vital part of our security policy. Government of India’s commitment to non-proliferation has been unwavering and its record impeccable. And, as our scientific and technological capabilities in the private sector have grown, we have further strengthened our controls in export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies as a national security imperative. We reiterated this commitment in January this year.

Our shared values and interests, as also our many common challenges, not the least in the arc of proliferation and terrorism that surrounds India, have led our leaders to seek a closer, strategic relationship between our two countries – a vision that is shared across the political spectrum in both nations. In an uncertain and unpredictable world, where the existing non-proliferation regime is being increasingly challenged by strategic proliferation and the horrifying possibilities of its links with terrorist organizations, India and the United States can turn their common concern on non-proliferation into a partnership against proliferation. That must be one of the aims of our strategic partnership.

As we give shape to the vision of strategic relationship, as we enlarge our understanding, as we embark on many joint endeavors, we must go beyond old persuasions that have constrained cooperation in civilian applications of science and technology. Our two governments are making concentrated efforts to deepen cooperation in this area and we appreciate the effort that the US Administration has put into it. In recent months, we have made good progress, but there is much that we can still accomplish. A broad cooperation in science and technology and a more robust trade in high technology areas should be an important element of our strategy to stimulate our overall economic relations, because in so many ways India and the United States are already pioneering international partnerships in knowledge-intensive industries.

I have spoken so far about our new relationship. Let me speak about other new challenges besides the ones I have touched upon which we should together meet. International terrorism poses a grave challenge both to India and the United States. We have been facing it for many years, but it was considered our problem, a product of the unresolved India-Pakistan confrontation. Those behind it were not seen as a threat to the USA or the West and early signals that this insouciance might be misplaced were ignored. The dramatic events of September 11 drove home to the US that those forces which did not want India to live did not want the US to live either. These are the products of the madrassas, of a warped world view, of grievances against the course of history, against the forces of modernity, against democracy, pluralism and the right to choose, with an exaggerated sense of their own strength, as if perverse convictions fired by religious zealotry are enough to achieve any goal. While the wounds inflicted by terrorism on India did not stir the world, the world got stirred by September 11. Terrorism has grown to become one of the greatest challenges to democratic societies and international stability. From being a footnote in the security concerns and foreign policy priorities of the world, it has become a key purpose of our collective endeavor today, and instead of being treated principally as a crime and law enforcement issue it has become one of global war.

This war cannot be won completely and durably if short term political calculations come into play and there is equivocation about partners as well as adversaries. In the global war against terrorism there is no room for double standards, of distinction between terrorism that can be tolerated and one that cannot, of terrorism directed against the West and that directed against the others, of the former being untarnished evil and the latter requiring resolution of its root causes. International terrorism, the product of a particular mindset, of a certain religious ideology, of deep rooted feelings of moral and historical superiority, of a certain infrastructure built around madarasas and mosques and a network of financing rendered more complex by the role of charitable institutions. The epicenter of terrorism cannot be the epic centre of the fight against it. Those who have one foot in the terrorist camp cannot have both feet in the combat against it. The institutions that nourish terrorism cannot be reliable instruments to eliminate it. The leader of a country whose right hand commits terrorist acts against India and the left hand cooperates against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, one part of whose discourse is a rallying call in favour of terrorism against India and the other rallies against those who target the West, whose promises have no value because he has no value for them, cannot be a reliable partner in the combat against terrorism. You cannot with the one hand water poisonous weeds and with the other spray weed-killers.

In a speech to the US Congress in September 2000, Prime Minister Vajpayee had spoken about terrorism’s growth, nourished by religious extremism and fundamentalism into an instrument of state policy for some, into a force that had become a threat to the values of democracy, pluralism, liberty and progress, and into a danger against which distance offered no insulation.

Many challenges still lie ahead in defeating the forces of terror. In the past seventeen months, we have made considerable progress in combating international terrorism by creating new levels of international cooperation, by crafting new multilateral standards for national behaviour and responsibility, by disrupting financial networks, by interdicting terrorists and by dismantling their bases in Afghanistan. But much more needs to be done still.

US has no better partner than India in combating fundamentalist terrorism and the security challenges it poses. We are both targets. The epicenter of terrorism is in our region and we have a common stake in eliminating it. Both of us have rejoiced in the downfall of the Taliban and we support the government of President Karzai in Afghanistan. Both of us favour stability in Central Asia and the elimination of the fundamentalist terrorist threat to the region. We are cooperating bilaterally at the level of our governments and our agencies in dealing with this menace. India has initiated a Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism in the UN, which the US supports. Our common experience and sufferings make us natural partners. As democracies, the challenges we face are particularly acute. Free and open societies like ours have to find answers to inadequacies of existing law enforcement and crime prevention mechanism dealing with terrorism, while preserving their high standards of rule of law, judicial processes and transparency. We still have to develop new paradigms of international cooperation on actionable intelligence, on which our success depends so much. We have to develop new technologies, systems and institutions for protection of our people.

We have to deal with terrorism pro-actively. We have to address the problem of all that which inspires, draws and indoctrinates countless young men to the path of violence. We must develop a consensus on how to deal with sovereign states, whose policies, social ethos and institutions breed the mindset that sustains international terrorism. We have to systematically target terrorist financial and communication networks, and their safe havens. We have to deal with failing or failed States, not only for the suffering that their own people undergo, but to prevent terrorists from exploiting the chaos to inflict suffering on people elsewhere. Our success depends on the moral clarity of our purpose, in the resolve of democracies to stand together, in our unequivocal rejection of terrorism regardless of the garb it seeks to clothe itself in, in our signal that terror is a discredited instrument that is doomed to fail, and in our recognition that success of terrorism anywhere gives it strength and inspiration globally. Beyond Afghanistan, we will have to address the other epicenter of terrorism in India’s neighbourhood.

Last year, the two events in South Asia – the campaign in Afghanistan and our own efforts to address cross-border terrorism – intersected on the territory of Pakistan. From the clarity that proximity and experience begets, we can see that the pursuit of Al-Qaeda and the goal of stability and security in Afghanistan would never be fully realized unless Pakistan also takes steps to end cross-border terrorism against India. The infrastructure and institutions that exist for terrorism against India provide the refuge and the breeding ground for terrorism against others too. However complex the challenge may be of dealing with this conundrum, the United States, India and the international community must address it squarely.

India and the United States both recognize the frightening possibilities of the link between the old and the new – between weapons of mass destruction, on one hand, and non-state actors as well as states that sponsor, support and abet terrorism, on the other. The nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is frightening. I drew attention to this in my speech at the Conference on Disarmament just a few days ago, exhorting the CD to find ways of addressing this new menace. India moved successfully last year in the UNGA a resolution on the issue of terrorism and WMD. There are States that are today collaborating in transfers of nuclear and missile technologies, endangering gravely the security of democracies. There is also the danger of their weapons falling into the hands of terrorist outfits. We face new questions about traditional concepts and methods of deterring, dissuading, pre-empting and defeating this new asymmetric and unpredictable threat. I am aware of the intense debate and efforts in this country to reorient your security doctrines and capabilities to address this new challenge, and it is one in which our two countries have also engaged frequently over the past year.

A new phenomenon is the growing incidence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, not by private entities, but as a result of political and strategic choice by governments. It creates long-term strategic equity and alliance among the collaborators and enables them to use their respective comparative advantages to overcome barriers to advancing their capabilities. Some of these countries have links with terrorism, have avowed policies to change the status quo through force or resort to nuclear blackmail. It is evident that international ad hoc proliferation control regimes, designed on different assumptions of proliferation and for a different era, are clearly ineffective in meeting the resulting threats to international peace and stability. Developing countries, which exercise self-discipline and adhere to the rule of law and transparency, find themselves facing both the constraints of the ad hoc control regimes and a deteriorating security environment from unchecked clandestine proliferation. India lies right in the middle of this arc of proliferation and confronts the dilemma that it represents. The political and security implications of strategic proliferation cannot be in the interest of the United States, India and the entire democratic world.

India’s security interest span the region from the Gulf to South-East Asia. We have close historical, political, cultural, religious and economic links with this part of the world. Our three million Indian expatriates work in the Gulf countries, with 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia alone, remitting several billion dollars every year to India. Their skills help to underpin the stability and prosperity of these countries. India’s surplus and qualified human resources are an asset to the region. With South East Asia, India is rapidly developing close economic links as part of its Look East policy, which include Free Trade and Economic Partnership Agreements with Thailand and Singapore respectively, east-west transportation links connecting, to begin with, India, Myanmar and Thailand and India’s summit level dialogue with ASEAN. India is also a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. India and China have a long common border and the Sino-Indian equation is a critical element in Asian peace and security. India has long term strategic interests in Central Asia and Iran is rapidly becoming a key link in India’s efforts to have access to this region and Afghanistan. India’s security requires peace, stability and prosperity in this larger region.

The US, as a global power, has a powerful presence in this region. It has now a military presence in Central Asia which is likely to be long term not only because of Afghanistan but also because of the oil and gas resources of this region and its geo-political importance otherwise. The US intends to stay in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future and barring, perhaps, Pakistan whose ambitions have been thwarted, all other neighbouring countries, including, India believe that the US presence in Afghanistan is required to ward off instability and revival of conflict there. The US has defence arrangements with Japan and Taiwan and it has a powerful presence in Asia through various institutions and organizations such as ARF, APEC, besides the existence of military bases in this region. US policies towards China, which it considers both a partner and a competitor, if not a threat, are key to the shaping of the future strategic balance in Asia. India and the US, therefore, have a large canvas in Asia to work on in terms of dealing with various security challenges.

The Iraq issue raises a host of difficult questions to which there are no easy answers. Many issues are involved : development of weapons of mass destruction, compliance with UN resolutions, sanctions, the problem of inspections, validity of pre-emptive action if there is no immediate threat of aggression, the political acceptability of regime changes imposed externally, the role of the UNSC, the debate between unilateralism and multilateralism, double standards in dealing with situations of similar concern, the consequences of military action against a country located in an already volatile region and its consequences, the possible break-up of the state, the concerns of neighbours, the danger of radicalization of Islamic opinion, post-war political management, control of oil supplies, etc. etc. The close allies and friends of the US raise these questions and doubts. India has some special concerns about the situation in Iraq because of the presence of millions of expatriates in the Gulf region, the size of remittances they send home, volatility of oil prices following armed action, the sentiments, in particular, of India’s own 140 million Muslims. In the case of Iraq, there is a conflict between wishes and expectation. No one wishes a conflict but everyone expects it.

Asia has made substantive progress towards freedom and prosperity. However, across the immense political, cultural, religious and economic diversity of Asia, there are many issues that remain unsettled. Democracy’s advance has been arrested or reversed in many countries. Progress towards modernity and pluralism confronts religious extremism and fundamentalism. Economic development is generating strains within and across societies, as it benefits some and bypasses others. There are countries that seek to redraw boundaries and settle claims – historical or imaginary – through the force of power. There is the challenge of balancing the legitimate interest of major powers in Asia – Japan, China, India and ASEAN bloc – and others who have a stake in Asia. With China we are seeking to strengthen our relationship in diverse fields. However, there are many aspects of China’s internal and external policies: the rising profile of China, how its growing strength will impact on the region and beyond, how and to what extent its economic success will make its system more democratic, transparent and comprehensible, all these are of interest and a challenge not only to India but to the international community as a whole.

Asia has traditionally been seen in terms of its sub-regions, each with its own dynamics and its own problems. Traditionally, we deal with them as unconnected compartments. However, lines that insulate one region from the other are increasingly getting blurred by proliferation deals that link the east to the west, by the chain of terror network across West, South and Southeast Asia, by the concerns about the safety of commerce from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca, by the challenge of connecting major consumers of energy to its sources in West and Central Asia.

India’s size, its location at the cross-roads of all important regions of Asia and its key routes of commerce and communication, its political stability, the resilience of its democratic institutions, the broad consensus that binds a billion people together in an unparalleled diversity, the enterprise and skill of its people in science and knowledge industries, its exercise of power with restraint and responsibility, its desire for cooperative security relations makes it an indispensable factor of stability and security in Asia and beyond.

India and the United States have the potential to work together and in partnership with other countries in addressing the existing and emerging security challenges in the world. We are two societies that mirror in each other our deepest ideals and aspirations – democracy, pluralism, the rule of law. Democracy is not the only factor that defines relations among nations, but it is a strong tool to counter extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism. By power of example, Indian and the United States can demonstrate that these values are not linked to culture, economy or geography, but have a growing universal aspiration.

The foundation of our engagement is built on many common and converging interests: promoting stability in Asia-Pacific region, combating terrorism, preventing and countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, managing the consequences of failing States, protecting the sea lanes of communication and commerce, and ensuring access to markets and energy resources of the region.

It is in a spirit of candour amongst friends that I wish to convey a certain sense of disappointment in India born out of the perception that the international community could do more to ensure an end to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, not as a favour to India but as a part of the international combat against terrorism. There is little cause for satisfaction on any parameter of cross-border terrorism. A permanent end to cross-border infiltration does not mean tactical reductions or fluctuations in levels of infiltration. During the elections in Jammu & Kashmir, infiltration and terrorist violence were stepped up with tragic consequences for candidates and voters. The people of India appreciate the steps that the United States took under its law against Pakistan-based terrorist organizations of concern to us and the efforts it made to extract a commitment from President Musharraf on immediate and permanent end to infiltration. We recognize, too, that the United States continues to call for progress in that direction. The disappointment stems from the lack of results, especially since the commitment was made to the United States and the international community. General Musharraf has simply gone back on his commitments. He has released the leaders of two especially virulent organizations banned by the US and others. The websites of terrorist organizations are back in business; fund collection for jehad against India has again begun openly. The extremist religious parties, those that were the mainstay of the Taliban and the Al Qaida are now more firmly entrenched in power, thanks to General Musharraf’s policies, countenanced by the West, of decimating the mainstream political parties. The Taliban and the Al Qaida have lost their base in Afghanistan but have found it in Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, even while the US is present on Pakistani soil. The astute General understand the many equities the US has today in Pakistan and exploits this to pursue his sponsorship of terrorism against India. He plays upon the fears of the West about a fundamentalist take-over in Pakistan, while encouraging, at the same time the religious extremists himself in order to have an insurance cover against western pressure, and in this manner, has gained western acquiescence for firmly entrenching military rule in Pakistan by amendments to the constitution and by manipulating the elections. Pakistan represents everything that is in the forefront of US concerns: religious fundamentalism, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction in possession of a failing state, a military dictatorship masquerading behind a pale democratic façade. A big challenge India and the US face is to make Pakistan a genuinely moderate state.

India is ready to make peace even with such an unreliable leadership. An end to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan will set in motion the process of normalization of relations and resolution of outstanding issues between India and Pakistan through direct bilateral dialogue. For India, there can be no accommodation, equivocation or ambiguity on the issue of terrorism. It must end. Nobody is more acutely aware than India of the importance of a dialogue. But, we have learnt in Lahore and Agra the futility of going through the motion of dialogue, and the risks inherent in its inevitable failure, if this dialogue takes place without a change in the mindset. And, it is our desire for progress that we remain committed to a composite dialogue process to deal with all issues simultaneously, based on the universal wisdom that the most difficult issues are tackled by first addressing the ones that are easily resolved. Economic relations provide one important route to move forward. If Pakistan, as a WTO member, were to grant MFN status to India and make effective progress on the interminably long negotiating process for a South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement, it would benefit not only the people of India and Pakistan, but, by moving the SAARC economic process forward, entire South Asia. The absence of movement by Pakistan testifies that its call for dialogue is more for form than substance.

Let me conclude by saying that the transformation underway in India-US relations and our commonality of interests we see in meeting new security challenges, are significant features of India’s foreign policy in recent years. The investment that both sides have made in the relationship is predicated as much on mutual benefit as on its global significance. Our broad agenda and the process that we have crafted for our engagement will provide a sound basis for an enduring partnership. The United States, the most powerful democracy, with its belief that it is right to be good, and India, the most populous democracy, with its belief that it is good to be right can together promote what is both good and right, in the one case bringing power to the enterprise and in the other case, the numbers.