Rumsfeld Arrives in India for Meetings With 'Rising Global Power'
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
NEW DELHI, India, Dec. 8, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here today for meetings with the country's leaders and top defense officials.
"As the world's largest democracy, (India is) a nation that we have important and continuing relationships with," Rumsfeld said as he was on his way overseas for a three-country trip.
The secretary arrived here from Kuwait, where he held a town hall meeting with U.S. soldiers preparing to move into Iraq. He is scheduled to meet with India's prime minister, minister of external affairs, defense minister and national security adviser Dec. 9, before returning to Washington.
As a secular democracy, India is a "rising global power," explained a senior U.S. defense official traveling with Rumsfeld, so it is important for the United States and India to maintain close ties.
Also important is that India has the world's second largest Muslim population; only Indonesia's is larger. Yet, India has no al Qaeda or Taliban operatives.
"The symbolic nature of a rising global power with a huge Muslim population as a secular democracy that has no known Taliban or al Qaeda operatives is important to recognize," the defense official said.
This is because democracy works here, the official said, and India is an example for many other countries in the region.
This is Rumsfeld's first visit to India since June 2002, when tensions between India and Pakistan were running high over excursions into the contested border area of Kashmir. But in the past two years, the relationship between the two countries has "improved mightily," the official said. He also noted that terrorist infiltration into Kashmir has fallen.
Also since Rumsfeld's last visit here, India has installed a new government, headed by the Congress Party. The secretary said he thought it important to come here to meet with the new elected officials.
During meetings, Rumsfeld will be discussing regional and global security issues and the "Next Steps Initiative."
The senior defense official explained the Next Steps Initiative was begun two years ago as "a high-level, government-to-government relationship" that focuses on missile defense, civil nuclear power, civil space advancements and high-tech trade.
India is "greatly interested" in defense trade with the United States, particularly in obtaining P-3 Orion "maritime observation" aircraft and SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. U.S. experts are also working with the Indian government to define a missile-defense strategy for the country, the official said.
While here, Rumsfeld plans to thank India for its support in the war on terrorism. The country has pledged $400 million toward Afghan reconstruction efforts and $20 million toward humanitarian assistance in Iraq.
"So we want to encourage (India) to continue to support us in these reconstruction efforts," the official said.
India has also offered to assist upcoming Iraqi elections by bringing elections officials here from Iraq for training on conducting democratic elections. The Iraqi government hasn't yet made a decision on whether to accept this invitation.
Another issue for discussion here is the Worldwide Proliferation Security Initiative. The United States would like India to endorse this plan to help keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
Also, in the context of this security initiative, the United States hopes India will help keep pressure on Iran. The two countries have close business ties.
"(India) is going to have a very important role to play in the world, and we need to be partners in this and to recognize that India has this potential," the official said. "And by cooperating on these issues, we're furthering our relationship."