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US finds a partner for Asian stability

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Washington wants to leverage its intensifying partnership with New Delhi to cope with instability in Asia. The US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, said here today that Washington’s “pre-eminent strategic objective to collaborate with others, including India”, is aimed at bringing about a peace that will allow countries to develop unhindered and one that will also not threaten “American vital interests and those of its friends and allies”.

Speaking at the 5th Asian Security Conference hosted by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses — a think-tank of the defence ministry — the US ambassador highlighted the threats in Asia. The theme of the conference is “Asian Security and China in the period 2000-2010”. It is expected that the deliberations of the conference will contribute policy inputs in the build-up to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing slated for May.

“Asia hosts the most threatening sources of global terrorism,” Blackwill said. “It contains the most severe international territorial disputes, and non-democratic rivalries over the right to rule. Many of its countries field large militaries and possess the potential and/or ability to develop, acquire, use or export weapons of mass destruction — witness especially the current dangerous cases of Iraq and North Korea that are being urgently addressed by the international community. And reckless governments in some Asian nations provide fertile ground for non-state actors to engage in terrorism, and onward proliferation of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) technologies,” Blackwill said.

Maintaining a stable Asia in these combustible circumstances represents a complex and abiding strategic mission for India, the United States and all like-minded states.”

The US ambassador said in the past two years, India and the US have drawn closer. They have completed six major joint military training exercises.

They are tackling the sensitive trade and technology issues and disputes that were not being addressed earlier. This is a marked change from the sanctions regime that had immediately followed the nuclear tests of 1998.

Peace within Asia was the “paramount goal” of the US-India relationship. The “transformed relationship” must tackle state and non-state terrorism.

He urged participants at the security conference — from as many as 22 countries — “to take a look at the bullet holes still evident at the Indian Parliament from the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack...”

Later, taking questions from the audience, ambassador Blackwill said he had recently returned from Washington where there is a conviction that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. The ambassador was speaking on the day UN Chief Weapons’ Inspector, Hans Blix, is scheduled to present his report on Baghdad’s arms.

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