Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told the U.S. Congress his country and the United States need to work together to confront the threats terrorism poses to democracies. The Indian leader addressed a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday, also touching on the issue of nuclear proliferation.
Prime Minister Singh observed that the world's largest democracy, and the world's oldest have much in common.
The open society and economy of the United States, he said, have attracted the brightest young minds from India, transcending distance and differences between the two countries.
He said India is poised to take advantage of a highly-educated, young, English-speaking population to be a major economic player in the 21st century.
He said India and the United States also share a common vulnerability to terrorists attempting to exploit and destroy the openness of their societies.
"The United States and India must work together in all possible forums to counter all forms of terrorism," the prime minister said. "We cannot be selective in this area. We must fight terrorism wherever it exists, because terrorism anywhere threatens democracy everywhere."
Prime Minister Singh had some blunt remarks on the issue of nuclear proliferation, an issue of concern to many in Congress.
Referring to what he called India's impeccable record on nuclear non-proliferation, he had this veiled criticism of Pakistan, whose chief nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan was found to have engaged in proliferation.
"We have adhered scrupulously to every rule and canon in this area," he said. "We have done so even though we have witnessed unchecked nuclear proliferation in our own neighborhood which has directly affected our security interests."
That remark brought some brief and somewhat uncomfortable applause from congressmen, after which the prime minister went on to observe that "India has never been and will never be a source of proliferation of sensitive technology."
The issue of nuclear proliferation activities by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan remains extremely sensitive for many U.S. lawmakers, who are unhappy that Pakistan has not yet, as far as is known, made Mr. Khan available to be interviewed by U.S. authorities.
A key development coming out of the prime minister's U.S. visit and talks with President Bush is an agreement on a new dialogue on civil nuclear technology, which could involve the sharing of civilian nuclear information.
Congress would have to approve such an arrangement, and one House lawmaker, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, has expressed strong opposition to this, noting that India is not a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
In his address to Congress, Prime Minister Singh put in a personal appeal for India to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, saying the voice of the world's largest democracy cannot go unheard as the United Nations is restructured.