The post-nuclear sanctions imposed on India in 1998 should be removed "swiftly", U.S. Ambassador-designate to India Robert D. Blackwell said in Washington today, noting that there was "enormous" promise in the relationship between the two multi-ethnic democracies.
"The flowers have begun to bloom, but there are some deep historical ruts from which both countries have to get out and exploit the opportunities," he said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He, however, made it clear that at this stage he could only speak in his personal capacity, for he would get official standing only after he was confirmed by the Senate.
The US' commitment to Indo-US relations "will certainly be manifested when the President visits India in the not too distant future," he said.
Blackwell said President George W. Bush believed that the world could be made freer, more peaceful, and more prosperous if the U.S. and India cooperated closely together over the long term.
"If confirmed, I especially look forward to working with the Indian American community and U.S. business to promote this vision. And I will urge this Committee and other members of Congress to play their crucial role in transforming the U.S.-India relationship, to visit India regularly and to receive your Indian counterparts here.
"I think it is a very rich agenda...there is enormous promise in this relationship," Blackwell said. Elaborating on the task at hand, Blackwell, who has 22 years experience as a career Foreign Service Officer said, the issue of the future of nuclear weapons was important and it seemed to him that the U.S. should have an intense dialogue with the Government of India on that subject.
On the economic-commercial side, the U.S. has a trade imbalance with India. "But it seems to me we should be doing much better working with India to promote this economic relationship."
Another area of cooperation was anti-terrorism. "It seems to me," said Blackwell, New Delhi and Washington both faced serious problems with respect to terrorism -- in some countries the same groups. "I hope we can find more intensive ways to cooperate."
The fourth issue to be looked into, he said was the future of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Noting that "General Musharraf" and Prime Minister of India Atal Behari Vajpayee would be meeting next month, he said the U.S. was not going to mediate in this but "We can be helpful if both sides want us to be helpful. Of course, in the end, they are going to have to find a way to resolve this issue-hopefully peacefully-between them."
Another subject, he hoped the U.S. would be able to discuss with India was the energy security in the Persian Gulf. India, he said, was importing more than 50 per cent of its energy from the Persian Gulf and the imports are likely to grow.
"Then there are global issues, the UN issues," he said. If there is full interaction with the Indian Government and there is mutual understanding, it will help us to be amore persuasive advocate for our position, and then we can interact with New Delhi," he added.