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"Special status to Pakistan will help fight against terror"

By Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI, MARCH. 23 . Asserting that close and collaborative strategic relations between the United States and India would continue to flourish, the U.S. Ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, said today America's recent decision to pursue "major non-NATO ally" status for Pakistan would facilitate U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in the war against terrorism, an objective shared by India as well.

Mr. Mulford's observation came within days of the U.S. decision which had evoked sharp reaction in New Delhi. The development "disappointed" India as the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, did not share it with Indian leaders while he was on a visit here. New Delhi had said that the development could have "significant implications" for India-U.S. relations.

"The U.S. will continue to build strong bilateral relations with India and Pakistan. Each of these relationships stands on its own merits," Dr. Mulford said, in an apparent bid to allay apprehensions in India. He was addressing a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Replying to a query if the U.S. agreed with the view that India should be given permanent membership in an enlarged United Nations Security Council, he said: "These issues take a long time to develop. One really does not know when this will happen but when it happens, the U.S. will review its strategic interest around the world."

While acknowledging that there have been some disagreements between India and the U.S. such as the war in Iraq and trade, Dr. Mulford said: "Thus far, our two governments have managed these differing perspectives with sensitivity and skill. On these issues, we may disagree on tactics, but generally we agree on the ultimate objectives. We are both for a stable, democratic and secure Iraq at peace with its neighbours. We both support the objective of a trading system that maximises free trade and the benefits this brings to our citizens."

In his first major public speech on "U.S.-India Relationship" since he took over his present assignment in New Delhi about a month ago, Dr. Mulford touched upon growing economic cooperation, strategic alliance with India and the commitment of both the countries to fight terrorism.

Advocating people-to-people connectivity, which should go beyond strong bilateral government-to-government initiatives, he said that people in democracies must engage themselves — "people in large and small scale organisations and institutions. People in great corporations, universities, health centres, hospitals, research institutes, financial markets, cultural pursuits, agricultural cooperatives, non-governmental organisations, and certainly the media and entertainment." "The core of the process is individuals working with individuals. History will attest to the fact that great national partnerships and alliances in the modern world thrive when all elements of government, corporate and civil societies are engaged," he told the gathering of top businessmen and industrialists.

His mantra for U.S.-India ties was that the strategic relationship must now become a comprehensive relationship, as there was enormous potential for such a transformation. "We have momentum; we now need accomplishment from both of our private sectors and civil societies where there are all kinds of opportunities for new and expanded cooperation.It is this broad-based, full engagement that will be my priority in coming months," he said.According to the Ambassador, the coming Lok Sabha election could well demonstrate that there exists indeed a political consensus that strong growth sustained over a long period would advance the prosperity of India's people, reduce poverty, integrate the country more fully into the global economy and transform its power status in the world.

He outlined three areas as the major challenges for boosting close strategic relations between India and the U.S. — economic progress, trade, investment and growth; continuing to confront the threat of international terror; and stopping the further spread of weapons of mass destruction. He said the prospects for sustained growth looked good.

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