N-deal with US to open doors for India: Pranab
India looks at its civil nuclear deal with the US as a door opener that would lead to the lifting of technology restrictions and similar cooperation with several countries thereby helping it realise its economic potential, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
"If India is to realise its economic potential, it will also need alternative sources of clean energy. Foremost among them is nuclear energy," Mukherjee said on Monday in a talk on India's Foreign Policy and Future India-US Relations at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"The bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement that India and the US have finalised indicates the way forward, which should lead to the lifting of technology restrictions and the opening up of cooperation in this field with several countries," he said with no reference to the storm the deal has run into back home.
In another remark that may raise the hackles of the Indian Left, which is opposing the nuclear deal, Mukherjee said because of the emerging "strategic relationship with Washington, "India and the US have an objective convergence in several areas".
The future trajectory of India-US ties should be clear from what he described as India's foreign policy preoccupations and priorities. He identified the areas of convergence as "in values and interests, in areas ranging from economic development to the dangers of proliferation of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), and in terrorism."
"As we look around the world, the defining characteristics of the Cold War era, namely, conflicting ideologies and opposing military blocs, are being transformed by the imperatives of globalisation, interdependence and connectivity," he said.
"When I look at the issues of the future, namely, energy security, the environment, food security, and the possible spread of WMD, it is clear to me that each issue will require all states, and particularly countries like India and the US, to work together," Mukherjee said.
Noting that the new challenges that are emerging, including protecting the electronically connected and inter-dependent world from terror and organised crime, are immensely complex, he said, "Handling this complexity requires much closer international cooperation than has been the case till now".
India's strategic partnership with the US has strengthened its relationship bilaterally, in the region and in the world, Mukherjee said, making it clear that the development of closer relations between India and any one strategic partner will not be at the expense of relations with any third country.
"In today's world, as interdependence among the major powers grows, each of us is engaging the other. Today, India enjoys strategic partnerships of one kind or another with as many as 11 countries and the EU," he noted.
India, he said, was also pursuing high-level dialogue with major powers through the India, China and Russia trilateral forum and the India-Brazil-South Africa group, and also developing closer linkages with major powers like the US, Japan, the European Union and Russia.
Describing the links between India and the US as "multi-layered", Mukherjee said the large and vibrant Indian-American community constitutes a vitally important bridge closely connecting many millions of citizens of the two countries.
Another important aspect of India's relationship with the US is that it is of mutual benefit, he said, noting India's rapid economic growth is propelled not primarily by exports, but much more by growing domestic consumer demand and increasing investments.
"India's growth will thus not be at the cost of other countries. It will, in fact, be a major stabilising force in the global economy," Mukherjee said.
"This is reflected in recent trends in India-US trade, where US exports to India are growing much faster than US imports from India.
"Investments are now also flowing in both directions. In terms of the global economy, India and the United States have shared concerns on critical issues, such as energy security. Both countries are, for instance, interested in the stabilisation of oil and gas prices at reasonable levels and in reduced dependence on fossil fuels," he noted.
In advanced areas like nuclear energy and space exploration, a sound indigenous base has been built that enables India not only to absorb high technology but also to collaborate with the United States in new fields.
"In sum, our relationship has never been better than it is today. I am confident about its future," Mukherjee said.