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Under Secretary Burns: Boosting U.S.-India Confidence

Speaker: William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Presider: David R. Ignatius, Columnist and Associate Editor, Washington Post
June 1, 2010

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U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns highlighted the global importance of the U.S.-India relationship, saying it has the potential to boost everything from nonproliferation to democratization. But first, Burns said, the two countries need to understand each other better. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations two days ahead of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in Washington, Burns laid out the concerns that have developed on both sides even as relations have rapidly expanded.

Some in India worry that in the United States "we see India mainly through the prism of preoccupations in Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Burns and "that we won't push Pakistan hard enough on terrorists who kill and threaten Indians [and] that we will hurry toward the exit in Afghanistan and leave India holding the strategic pieces."

On the American side, he said, some worry that "India is ambivalent about its own rise in the world, still torn between its G77 and G20 identities. And some Americans wonder if India has the drive to overcome obstacles to its own ambitious development efforts, to cut through the 'license raj', and speed up reform and attract more investment in more areas."

Burns stressed the Obama administration was deeply committed to supporting India's rise and to "building the strongest possible partnership between us." He noted the two sides already enjoy surging bilateral trade, expanded cooperation in counterterrorism, and the foundation created by the 2008 civil nuclear agreement, with huge potential to create jobs and energy cooperation.

Burns also reiterated U.S. concerns about the India-Pakistan relationship: "None of us, least of all Indians and Pakistanis, can afford a resurgence of tensions between two nuclear-armed states. And none of us, least of all Indians and Pakistanis, can afford to see groups with global terrorist ambitions like Lashkar-e-Taiba continue unchecked. As Secretary Clinton has emphasized to the Pakistani leadership, 'We have no time to waste in going after that common enemy as hard and as fast as we can.'"


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