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Defense Official Calls U.S-India Partnerships Critical

By David Mays
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2007 – (Editor’s note: This story has been modified from the form in which it was originally published. The modification was made for the sake of clarity and to provide appropriate context.)

Broad-based partnerships between the United States and India are critical as the South Asian republic increasingly exerts its influence on the world, a senior Defense Department policy maker said today.

“The U.S.-India strategic potential is very, very profound,” James Clad told online journalists and bloggers during a conference call from the Pentagon. Clad is deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia. “It’s been slow in coming - I think it will be slow in coming in the future - but it is steady. The trend lines are unmistakable,” he said.

While India’s sometimes contentious neighbor, Pakistan, continues to search for Osama bin Laden and help wage the global war on terrorism, Clad explained, the U.S.-Indian relationship is more important in the long run.

"I think it's fair to say, and it goes back to the previous administration as well as this present administration, that the importance of India…just in terms of trade, in terms of presence in Asia, in terms of self-sustaining economic development, that India simply must, as a long-term consideration, matter more for us than Pakistan," he said. "And when I say that, what I want to stress is that people have spent a lot of time thinking about how you can adequately describe one country and the other.

"I think the preferred formula now," he continued, "is to describe Pakistan as a country that's very significant within its region, modernizing as well, and that we hope will return to the democratic past and elections are scheduled, ... and also (as) the extraordinarily important partner in the war on terrorism."

India is on a major course to ramp up its military infrastructure, Clad said, with a multi-billion budget at the ready to purchase, among other equipment, 126 multi-role combat aircraft.

“It is the largest external-announced defense procurement budget in the world,” Clad said. “And people are obviously interested in this.”

Clad noted that 52 U.S. defense corporations, including “brass nameplates” like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Ratheon, Honeywell and General Electric, have all set up offices in India. “That’s a lot.”

Each U.S. military service participates in training exercises with Indian troops, Clad explained, and Indian ports welcome U.S. Navy ships. He noted a recent visit by the USS Nimitz to Chennai, an Indian city situated along the Bay of Bengal.

“The visit was an enormous success, greeted with great interest by the people of the city,” he said.

The U.S. Navy also recently refurbished its former USS Trenton and presented it as a gift to the Indian navy, Clad explained. “This is a substantial vessel which has been very well received in Indian naval circles.”

Besides military partnerships, Clad said, Indian-American economic partnerships also are important, and in many cases already are in place.

“You hit a golf ball on the Bangalore golf course, and that ball, unless you’re careful, is going to go right through a window of IBM, which is right next to Infosys, which is an Indian firm staffed by Indian-Americans who are also listed on the New York Stock Exchange. So it’s a much bigger relationship.”

That relationship, Clad explained, consists of multiple, rich layers.

“The India relationship now is more comprehensive in trade, information technology, movement of its peoples, he said. “There are 2 million Indian-Americans now living in the United States.”

Rather than fear India’s global transformation, Clad said, The United States should embrace the opportunity to assist and advise the country.

“It’s about maintaining a type of equilibrium, about accepting India’s rise into a type of maturity and power and prowess I think we broadly welcome,” he said. “We’re coming into something that’s naturally there. It’s like a seat which is already at the table, and we’re sliding into it.”

(David Mays is assigned to New Media at American Forces Informations Service.)

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