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Robert D. Blackwill: Opening Remarks Shanti Path

Opening Remarks Shanti Path 03

Robert D. Blackwill, Ambassador to India Remarks to the United Service Institution of India New Delhi, India February 10, 2003


General Nambiar, General Singh, Participants in Shanti Path 03, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Exercise Shanti Path 03 will be the seventh military exercise that the United States and India have undertaken together in the past two years. It is yet another powerful example of the transformation of the US-India relationship since January 2001 led by President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee. Someone once said that, "It is the business of the statesman to provide a decent burial for the past and to facilitate the birth of the future." That is exactly what the President and the Prime Minister have done with respect to US-India ties. Shanti Path is different from the previous six because Americans and Indians will be functioning with military personnel, staff officers and civilian police from at least eleven other nations. You all understand better than most how important practicing peacekeeping is and the wisdom of the French proverb, "It is late to be digging a well when feeling thirsty." In this sense, you will be digging wells for the next two weeks for a time when you may be asked to provide the international community with water.

The first peacekeeping operations command post exercise was held in Hawaii eighteen months ago. India, like many of the other nations represented here, was a contributor to that endeavor. This, however, is the first exercise of its kind that India has hosted, and that too speaks volumes about the extraordinary change that has taken place in US-India relations over the past two years.


A guiding document in US-India transformation is the recently issued National Security Strategy of the United States, a report that bears the personal stamp of President Bush. Let me quote a passage on India:

"...The United States has undertaken a transformation in its bilateral relationship with India based on a conviction that US interests require a strong relationship with India. We are the two largest democracies, committed to political freedom protected by representative government. India is moving toward greater economic freedom as well. We have a common interest in the free flow of commerce, including through the vital sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean. Finally, we share an interest in fighting terrorism and in creating a strategically stable Asia we start with a view of India as a growing world power with which we have common strategic interests."

President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee, recognizing and acting upon this strategic vision, have given historic impulse to our efforts at building a close relationship in all fields of bilateral interaction, including diplomatic collaboration, counter terrorism, counter proliferation, defense and military-to-military teamwork, intelligence exchange, and law enforcement.

In my view, these supportive relations between America and India will endure over the long run most importantly because of the convergence of their democratic values and vital national interests. Indian and American democratic principles-a common respect for individual freedom, the rule of law, the importance of civil society, and peaceful state-to-state relations-bind us and our overlapping vital national interests-promoting peace and freedom in Asia, combating international terrorism, and slowing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-give concrete purpose to our military-to-military relationship.

Indeed, I am confident that historians will look back and regard the transformation of US-India relations as one of the most important strategic developments of the first decade of this new century.

I am gratified that bilateral military and security cooperation has spearheaded the fundamental redefinition of US-India bonds. This collaboration between the American and Indian armed forces builds enhanced military capacities on both sides. Exercises, such as Shanti Path 03, reciprocal visits, and bilateral exchanges are key building blocks for future US-India interoperability.

Peacekeeping will continue to be an important mission for many militaries in the foreseeable future. Multilateral training will assist all in understanding the problems that arise when national armed forces with different histories, professional cultures and procedures operate together.

It is precisely the Indian Army's skill in multilateral teamwork that makes it the perfect co-host for this effort. Few countries have a more varied familiarity with peacekeeping than India, and its record of international service has provided the Indian military with crucial know-how that should help make this exercise a resounding success. One of my former Harvard colleagues, an economist, was meant to have once asked, "I know it works in practice - but does it work in theory?" With respect to peacekeeping, the Indian military knows what works in theory -- and what works in practice. Or as Aldous Huxley put it, "Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you." I am sure that this extensive Indian peacekeeping experience will be of great assistance to every visitor in this room.

At the same time, the partnership of the US and Indian military establishments in developing and executing this event further demonstrates our resolve to act together as equals on global issues -- to make the world more peaceful, more prosperous, and more free.


No single area of US-India cooperation highlights the transformed bilateral relationship more than our defense cooperation, which certainly has a vital present and an even brighter future.

I am especially delighted to be with you here today, and I wish you the very best in your cooperative activities during the next two weeks.

Thank you.


Released on February 10, 2003

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