As the US State Department’s third ranking official, R. Nicholas Burns was the architect of the India-US Civil Nuclear Deal under the George W Bush administration. The former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs is considered a great friend of India who convinced Capitol Hill about why the USA should engage India in the new Century.
As he led the transformation of US ties with India during the Bush years, Burns has been a bit disappointed with the former’s successor vis-à-vis his India vision. But the maiden visit of President Barack Obama to India, where he signed deals worth USD10 bn, announced a measured support to India for its UNSC bid and waived the dual-technology controls on Indian entities, may have assuaged that grouse.
In an exclusive interview with Shashank Chouhan of Zeenews.com, Burns evaluates the presidential visit and what the greatest democracies should do in a new Asia. Excerpts:
How do you rate the maiden visit of President Obama to India?
I believe President Obama’s visit to India was successful. The US-India relationship is very strong. US support for India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the growing military relationship and progress on the export control issue are all positive outcomes.
Before his visit, Obama was not seen as somebody keen on India ties. Will this visit be enough to change that perception forever?
Clearly, some good work was done during the Bill Clinton and George W Bush Administrations. The Obama Administration has done some more things to build this relationship further. It will go on to develop the future of our ties to India…and I support that.
What would you say is the biggest take-away for India as well as the US from his visit?
The biggest take-away from the visit is the restored momentum in the relationship, more than anything else. Our private sector - business development, university collaboration, role of the Indian-American community etc. - ties are growing. These provide a firm foundation for the relationship.
Afghanistan and South Asia as a whole has emerged as a challenge between the countries…
I would say that the two governments are working together closely on Afghanistan and on security in Asia in the larger perspective. The two governments are also working closely for stability in South Asia in that sense.
Do you see China as a fulcrum around which US-India strategic ties can emerge?
There is little doubt that as China rises to power, we will need to work together for a secure, peaceful and stable region. India and the US will need to work with Japan, South Korea and other democratic countries in this regard for sure.
Many have called for active military ties between the US and India to counter China…
For the sake of a peaceful and stable Asia, I feel it will be important for India and the US to strengthen their military ties. This can be done through the sale of sophisticated American military technology to India as well as partnering on logistics.