New Delhi, Sept. 20: India and the US have exchanged a series of non-papers covering the four key areas of new strategic dialogue, trade, high-technology, nuclear energy and civilian space technology, thus moving towards a strengthening of bilateral ties.
Non-papers are texts of language agreed between two sides in informal meetings that are exchanged to firm up positions and keep track of the specified issues to be discussed in specialised group sessions.
A lot of emphasis is being laid on strategic dialogue. The framework for this is already in place with a number of groups, including one on defence co-operation and counter-terrorism being made part of it.
However, the stress would now be on ensuring more frequent interactions between the two sides at different levels. As part of this initiative, US assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca would arrive in New Delhi to hold talks with Indian officials on developments in the region with particular focus on the elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Rocca’s visit would be preceded by one by John Wolf, US assistant secretary looking after non-proliferation. This will be the first time that a dialogue between the two sides on non-proliferation is taking place since the Bush administration came to power nearly one-and-a-half-years ago.
Rocca will start here visit by meeting US ambassadors in South Asia. This would help her assess the situation in the region, particularly in Pakistan as US ambassador in Islamabad Nancy Powell would also be here.
The assistant secretary would hold meetings with Indian officials on Tuesday to share perceptions of the two sides on developments in the region, including the peace-talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, the Maoist problem in Nepal, apart from the Kashmir elections.
The non-papers were exchanged earlier this month before the visit of foreign minister Yashwant Sinha to Washington. It was followed by a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and US President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 12.
At the meeting between Bush and Vajpayee, the US President told the Prime Minister that Washington was keen on building a long-term relationship with Delhi based on “trust and transparency”.
The US had also given a categorical assurance to the Indian leadership that it would use its leverage with Pakistan to ensure that President Pervez Musharraf kept his pledge to stop infiltration and terrorism across the Line of Control permanently.
But one of the most significant areas of cooperation between the US and India would be on civilian space technology and peaceful use of nuclear energy. The hurdle for the transfer of high-technology was cleared earlier this month at the meeting between Bush and Vajpayee.
The non-papers would help in understanding each other’s position on the two issues and could prepare the two sides for subsequent meetings.
US sanctions imposed after India tested its nuclear weapons in May 1998 restricted not only the transfer of high-technology but also better military co-operation between the two sides. The Republicans are not in favour of sanctions and are more sympathetic to the Indian position that such restrictions more often than not prove to be counter-productive.
However, now the two sides would have to sit together to trash out the ways of lifting the sanctions while keeping US domestic legislations in mind.