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India, Pakistan Key Allies in War on Terror, Bush Says

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2006 – India and Pakistan are key allies in the long war against global terrorism and important partners in spreading democracy, President Bush told an Asia Society audience here today.

Bush, who is scheduled for an upcoming trip to both countries, said the United States, India and Pakistan face a common threat in Islamic extremism and laid out how both countries are working with the U.S. to defeat this shared enemy. For instance, India and the U.S. are sharing intelligence and cooperating on law enforcement issues, the president said.

"Our two governments are sharing vital information on suspected terrorists and potential threats," he said. "And these cooperative efforts will make the Indian government more effective as a partner in the global war on terror and will make the people in both our countries more secure."

Bush emphasized that an important component to winning the war on terror is through the spread of democracy. To meet these ends, India and the U.S. launched a joint venture to promote democracy and global development called the Global Democracy Initiative.

"Under this initiative, India and the United States have taken leadership roles in advancing the United Nations Democracy Fund," he said. "The fund will provide grants to governments and civil institutions and international organizations to help them administer elections, fight corruption, and build the rule of law in emerging democracies."

India is the world's largest democracy, with vast religious and cultural diversity, which makes it a good example of how to successfully establish a multiethnic democracy, the president said.

For its part, Pakistan is fighting terrorism head-on, and has come a long way toward democracy over the past five years, Bush said. "Five years ago, Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," he said. "That all changed after Sept. 11."

Within two days of the terrorist attacks in the U.S., the Pakistani government committed itself to stop al Qaeda operatives at its border, share intelligence, and break off all ties with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Bush said.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf's decision to join the war against terrorism came at great personal risk because Pakistan is home to many radical Islamists who take advantage of every opportunity to create chaos and destabilize the country, Bush said.

"The United States and Pakistan understand that in the long run the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy," he said. "Pakistan still has a distance to travel on the road to democracy; yet it has some fundamental institutions that a democracy requires."

For instance, Bush said, Pakistanis are free to criticize their government; the country has multiple political parties, and has a "lively and generally-free press." The United States will continue to work with Pakistan to strengthen its democratic institutions, he said. Another way to engage terrorism inside Pakistan is to foster economic development and opportunity, which will reduce the appeal of radical Islam, he added.

Bush also said humanitarian efforts will help win hearts and minds in Muslim nations and pointed to America's relief efforts in Pakistan following its massive earthquake in October as a prime example. The United States military had troops on the ground aiding the victims within 48 hours, and the U.S. has pledged more than a half a billion dollars for relief and reconstruction, including $100 million in private donations from American citizens. These funds have helped improve shelter for over half a million people and feed over a million, he said.

"The terrorists have said that America is the great Satan," Bush said. "Today in the mountains of Pakistan, they call our Chinook helicopters angels of mercy."

Acts like these, along with continued cooperation among nations will help change negative perceptions, defeat terrorism, and advance the cause of freedom, he said. "We know the power of freedom to transform lives and cultures and overcome tyranny and terror," Bush said. "We can proceed with confidence because we have two partners -- two strong partners -- in India and Pakistan."

The Asia Society is a nonprofit organization that promotes U.S.-Asian relations.

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