India is not only the world's largest democracy, it is also a powerful model for other emerging democracies, a top United States official said on Wednesday.
India is a model of tolerance and of strength in diversity, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns said in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace -- a key Washington-based think tank.
"It is no coincidence that the first state visit in the Obama Presidency will come from India, and Prime Minister Singh will arrive in Washington next week at a moment of great opportunity. Few relationships will matter more to the course of human events in the 21st century than the partnership between India and the United States. India, as all of you know very well, is a rising global power, soon to be the world's most populous country, with a trillion dollar-plus economy. The world's largest democracy, India is a powerful model for other emerging democracies, a model of tolerance and of strength in diversity," said Burns.
He pointed out that the bilateral ties between the two countries had 'come a long way'.
"Today there are close to three million Indian-Americans in the United States, who serve as a critical bridge between our countries. More than 100,000 Indian students attend schools and universities in the United States each year, more than from any other country. Our Embassy and consulates in India issue over 50 per cent of all specialised employee visas in the world. Our private sectors are linked by steadily mounting trade flows, which have doubled since 2004 and now exceed $43 billion each year," he said.
Burns also talked about how India and the US were helping each other in the fight against terrorism.
"Over the past year our two countries have developed new mechanisms to improve the sharing of information that have helped prevent attacks and protect both our peoples. Home Minister Chidambaram's visit to Washington last September further strengthened our collaboration in these areas and laid the initial groundwork for what we hope will become an enduring US-India partnership in counter-terrorism," he said.
Noting that Afghanistan presents another challenge and the two countries will continue to work together there, Burns said as the discussion on the new Afghan policy draws to a conclusion, "we would continue to actively consult India as a critical partner in achieving lasting peace. We welcome India's significant and positive role in Afghanistan, including the provision of over $1.2 billion in reconstruction assistance."
However, he ruled out any mediation in the India-Pakistan peace process.
"Of course, we all share an interest in stability and peace between India and Pakistan. We all know the stakes. America has always supported the two countries' peace process and the resolution of outstanding disputes through dialogue. The pace, scope, and content of the peace process is for Indian and Pakistani leaders to decide. But we have welcomed renewed engagement, including this past summer between Prime Ministers Singh and Gilani, and between Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari," he said.
Burns also discussed the five pillars of Indo-US strategic relationship in the Barack Obama administration, including cooperation in the field of security.
"There is also significant potential in our relationship for expanded defense cooperation. As India modernises its military, American equipment and technology can and should be a part of that modernisation. The recent conclusion of an End-Use Monitoring accord gives us important momentum to enhance our security relationship," he said.
Burns also touched on the contentious issue of nuclear non-proliferation.
"Nuclear nonproliferation is a very high priority for President Obama, and we look to India as a full partner in efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime and prevent the further spread of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
He added that the Obama administration "remains firmly committed to implementing fully the Civil Nuclear Initiative; we welcomed the recent naming of two reactor park sites for US nuclear firms, and we look forward to the completion of other steps, on both sides, that will make civil nuclear cooperation a reality between our two countries. US firms stand to benefit a great deal from the implementation of the 123 agreement, a process that should also create thousands of new jobs for Indians and Americans."
Burns concluded his speech by stating, "Few relationships around the world matter more to our collective future, or hold greater promise for constructive action on the challenges that matter most to all of us, than the partnership between the United States and India".
But he was quick to add, "That doesn't mean that we will always agree, because we won't. That doesn't mean that we can always avoid mutual suspicions or misunderstandings, because we can't. But together we can build, on the solid foundation that already exists, an even stronger partnership that serves not only the interests of our two countries, but of the rest of the international community."