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India's Secretary Sees Growth in US Partnership


India's foreign secretary, Shyam Saran, says ties between the United States and India are growing stronger because both countries recognize the benefits of cooperation. The foreign secretary, who is in Washington for talks with U.S. officials, says the cooperation is transforming relations between India and the United States.

Before meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Secretary Saran spoke to reporters about the growing partnership between the United States and India, the world's largest democracy.

Mr. Saran said Indo-U.S. relations are at a crossroads and the countries have two choices.

"One is the road that we have traveled before, one that will maintain the status quo and the distance between our two democracies," he said. "The other, not without its challenges, recognizes the enormous changes of the last decade, appreciates the resulting opportunities, and is prepared to depart from established positions to realize a strategy partnership."

The second choice, a stronger partnership, appears to be the direction both countries are taking following the signing, last July, of a civil nuclear energy agreement by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Under this agreement, which has to be approved by the U.S. Congress, India would separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities and open the civilian facilities to international inspection. In return, Washington would give India the civilian nuclear technology it badly needs for its growing economy.

Mr. Saran says the agreement signed by the two leaders has also led to greater cooperation between the two countries on a broad range of issues.

"It also underlines that our ties are anchored not only on common values but on common interests as well," he added. "These include promotion of democratic values and practices, combating terrorism and WMD proliferation and working closely on global challenges ranging from HIV/AIDS to disaster relief."

Mr. Saran says no single state, no matter how strong, can bear global burdens alone. He cited last year's tsunami as an example of how India and the United States worked together to help victims of the disaster. And he added that other issues, such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and health pandemics, are making both countries realize the increasing need for cooperation.

"These long-term trends would probably have brought India and the United States much closer in any case over a period of time, however, through the exercise of policy choices on both sides this gradual and somewhat measured transformation was significantly accelerated over the past year," he explained.

Mr. Saran says all future agreements between the two countries will be based on the reasonable premise that one side cannot carry all the risks.

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