Ambassador William or Bill Burns, first as Under Secretary of State and then as Deputy Secretary of State, contributed to the expansion of the Indo-US strategic partnership under two different Presidents. However, Burns believes that as the partnership matures it will be difficult to replicate dramatic initiatives like the civilian nuclear deal. In an interview with Economic Times' Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury on the eve of his visit to Delhi to launch the India chapter of Carnegie (of which he is the President), former US Deputy Secretary of State Burns says that a real strategic partnership between major powers is not just about one-off major initiatives like nuclear deal but also about practical application in combating violent extremism and terrorism which threatens liberal democratic societies.
Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury: What is your assessment of the partnership between the two democracies since 2005 when Delhi and Washington decided to have a civil nuclear deal -- considered a game changer in bilateral ties.
William J Burns: There is no question that the civil nuclear deal was a dramatic achievement. What was - and remains - remarkable, especially at this moment of partisan dysfunction in the United States, is the profound bipartisan support for the Agreement. Despite the controversy provoked by its reversal of long-standing US nonproliferation policy, the Agreement was approved by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. Prime Minister Singh almost lost his government over the deal, but his electoral success in 2008 proved that Indians, like Americans, overwhelmingly supported strengthened ties.
In the years since the agreement, the US-India partnership has only grown stronger, thanks to sustained bipartisan consensus in both countries and sustained effort by both leaderships. The depth and breadth of today's partnership would have been unthinkable two decades ago.
My bottom line assessment is that both sides have made an astute long-term bet on each other's success. But I believe that both sides recognize that much work remains if we are to realize the full promise of the strategic partnership. And both sides realize that as the partnership matures, it will be difficult to replicate dramatic initiatives like the civil nuclear deal. A real strategic partnership between major powers is not just about one-off major initiatives but also about the practical application of the partnership across the wide array of issues where our interests increasingly converge - from building order and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific to countering WMD proliferation and combating violent extremism and terrorism which threaten our liberal democratic societies.
This, it seems to me, is the central task facing both capitals.
Today India and USA partner in many areas from alternative energy sources to defence cooperation. What are the new areas that the two countries can further explore to cooperate?
There is much that can be done to deepen and make more meaningful current areas of cooperation, including on defense and climate. The one relatively newer area that in my view deserves more attention is the way in which India and the United States can work together to help resolve critical global problems. We are still focused on the bilateral agenda, and that will likely remain the case in the near future. But I hope that we can begin to look more seriously at what we can do together to address global questions where our interests and values increasingly converge.
This is the final year of the Obama Presidency. As you look back what could have the two countries further achieved? How can they tap unrealized potential across sectors? Does the Modi government hold more promise for economic reforms and realizing economic potential of relationship than governments in the past?
There is no question that Prime Minister Modi has the mandate and the will to accelerate economic reforms. The Prime Minister has made it clear that progress at home is the essential prerequisite for shouldering the responsibility of global partnership and leadership - and the most essential prerequisite to strengthening the ties that bind Americans and Indians.
Obama and Modi have signed a joint vision document for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Can they translate it to effective strategic coordination on the ground?
I've learned that even when the strategic logic for partnership in clear and compelling, it is sometimes remarkably difficult for Washington and New Delhi to translate that consensus into concrete action. That was certainly the lesson of the civil nuclear deal, where the dividends have still - one decade on - not been fully realized.
I hope that we can learn from that experience in the Asia-Pacific, where the security and economic stakes are enormous and where India and the United States have a real opportunity to shape together the Pacific Century unfolding before us. As with everything else, it will take the active efforts of both leaders to push through the inevitable bureaucratic and political headwinds.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the oldest think-tank of the USA and among world's top think-tanks. What can it bring to India?
I am very excited about the launch of Carnegie India, a terrific addition to our centers in Beijing, Beirut, Brussels, Moscow, and Washington.
The Carnegie Endowment's mission, now more than a century old, is to advance the cause of peace and international understanding. We opened our centers in an effort to keep pace with accelerating globalization and deepen dialogue and research at key geopolitical fault lines.
There is no question that in the 21st century, no region will be more consequential for global order than the Asia Pacific. India's rise is a very significant - and dramatic - feature of that new landscape. India plays a critical role in nearly every region and issue of consequence - from the future of democracy to nuclear nonproliferation, great power politics to climate, and the impact of technological innovation on international affairs. Understanding India's perspectives will be essential to meeting these and other challenges head on.
Our approach has never been focused on what "we" can bring to India, but about what leading Indian strategists and up and coming scholars have to contribute to India's own domestic and international evolution. Our hope is that these views will be informed by the work of our colleagues in other centers and that the work of our Indian colleagues will in turn inform and enrich the views of thinkers and doers around the world.
Given how crowded and complicated today's international landscape has become, and given the profound stakes for global peace and prosperity, Andrew Carnegie's mission and animating purpose is more relevant and vital than ever before. I am convinced that Carnegie India can make an enormously important contribution to that effort.