Washington: Maintaining that it is for India and Pakistan to decide on the pace and scope of their bilateral ties, the Obama Administration has said that its relationship with New Delhi and Islamabad is not a "zero sum" game.
"The President (Barack Obama) believes that the US relationship with India and the US relationship with Pakistan does not take place within any kind of zero sum dynamic,"
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.
However, it is often been viewed that way in the past, that if the US become closer to one it’s at the expense of the other, he noted.
"And we’ve tried to send the signal that it’s the opposite with this administration; that, in fact, actually you see that borne out in the fact that we had a very successful strategic dialogue here, with the Pakistanis in town last week, discussing greater security cooperation in governance and economic issues," Rhodes said.
"As a part of that, the President met with the Pakistani delegation and ended up speaking to (Pak) President (Asif Ali) Zardari yesterday to discuss that strategic
dialogue and said that he’d very much like to visit Pakistan next year and is planning to visit Pakistan next year," he said.
Rhodes said Pakistan was not added to this Asia trip mainly because of logistic reasons.
"On this specific trip, we have a limited amount of time. We have hard dates in terms of summits that we’re attending in Seoul and in Japan. And we have a very robust
programme in India on the front end. So he wanted to make sure we have the proper focus on that Pakistan trip when it does take place," Rhodes said.
"So he (Obama) looks forward to that visit. Again, we don’t see it as kind of a zero sum equation. I think the strategic dialogue speaks to the fact that we’re cooperating
closely with Pakistan just as this visit speaks to a deepening relationship with India," Rhodes said.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns said the Obama Administration has always welcomed dialogue between India and Pakistan and certainly encouraged
efforts to improve relations between those two very important countries.
"Obviously, the pace, scope and character of that dialogue is something that Indians and Pakistanis have to shape. But we’ll continue to both welcome and encourage it,"
Burns said in response to a question.
"We do support efforts by India and Pakistan to pursue a dialogue with one another, so we`ll express support for that, as we always do," Rhodes said.
"We believe that a positive relationship between the US and Pakistan, a deepening relationship between the US and Pakistan, does not in any way, shape or form have to be seen through a zero-sum lens as it relates to India, and that we want to take the US-Indian relationship to a new level on this visit," he said.
"We want to expand cooperation on economic issues, but also on security cooperation, counterterrorism and military ties, cooperation on issues like clean energy and, again, as
the world’s two largest democracies, working together both bilaterally and also around the world," Rhodes said.
"Our central message to the region is that both of these relationships can be advanced and deepened at the same time on a parallel track, and that that does not in any way
demonstrate a preference for one relationship over the other, that these things can be mutually reinforcing, in fact," Rhodes said.
Meanwhile, refuting some think-tank report that the relationship between India and the US has been stalled, the White House has asserted that the tie between the two largest
democratic countries of the world has in fact reached a new height under the Obama Administration.
"I think that the notion that it has stalled is just not in line with the facts that are apparent both in terms of atmospherics and in terms of substance," Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, Ben Rhodes, told reporters at a White House news conference on India.
"On the atmospherics, Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh was the first state visit that we hosted here. This will be the longest trip that the (US) President (Bareck Obama) will
have taken as President to a foreign country.
And it speaks to the depth of his partnership with Prime Minister Singh on a personal basis, but also the partnership between our countries," Rhodes said.
"On a substantive basis, if you look at, the breadth of the issues -- and as we get to India, I think we’ll be able to finalise some of the discussions we’re having around some
of these issues, go through in detail the outcomes of the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Singh on the trip," he told reporters in response to a question.
"But we are moving forward on a whole host of energy projects together related to clean energy and climate change. We are advancing new cooperation on agricultural development.
We have continued to expand our military-to-military cooperation in terms of exercise and in terms of how we communicate with one another," Rhodes said.
"We have deepened our information-sharing on counterterrorism, for instance, exemplified by the access we’ve provided the Indians to David Headley (the Mumbai terror suspect). We have partnered with the Indians -- continue to partner with them in Afghanistan.
And so we’ve actually upgraded the G20 to the premier economic forum in the world, in part to give countries like India a greater voice," Rhodes argued.
"So I think across the board, we’re moving forward with India on a whole range of issues on a very substantive basis that speaks to the fact that, if you look at the
previous two administrations, we had some major irritants related to nuclear issues. I think the civilian nuclear deal helped move beyond that," he said.
"But now I think what we’re trying to do is use the opportunity afforded by that to lift this relationship up to a new level where India is really a strategic partner for the
United States in the region and in the world," Rhodes said.