The defence framework agreement signed last month between India and the United States is not a military alliance, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said at a press conference on Wednesday in the run-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington from July 18-20.
(In a related development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh briefed Bharatiya Janata Party leaders A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani on his forthcoming visit to Washington. Dr. Singh is scheduled to meet leaders from the Left parties on Thursday.)
Suggesting that there was some "misunderstanding" about the defence framework, Mr. Saran said it set out the "parameters" within which the two countries can potentially cooperate with each other if it is in their interest to do so.
"I do not think anybody can take exception to that," Mr. Saran said, adding that it could not have any adverse impact on India's very substantial defence ties with Russia and other countries. There should not be any apprehensions about India's relations with the U.S.
Asked about the criticism from the Left parties about the defence framework signed during the recent visit of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Foreign Secretary declared that India was, is and would remain a non-aligned country.
The Foreign Secretary denied that India was disappointed by the stand taken by the U.S. in the United Nations' General Assembly asking member states to vote against the G-4 resolution seeking Security Council expansion.
"If the U.S. has decided to oppose the G-4 resolution there is not much we can do about it ... whether or not we go ahead with the resolution will again be based on the assessment that we will take together with our partners... " the Foreign Secretary said. Terrorism issue
On the issue of terrorism, Mr. Saran remarked that the Indian position was that there could be no segmented approach to the issue, a point that was made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the recent G-8 summit at Gleneagles. India had a "strong hand" on the issue as Dr. Singh travelled to the U.S.
Asked about remaining sanctions on India from the U.S. side, the Foreign Secretary said that Washington had been told that New Delhi could not be a partner and a target at the same time. While some of the restrictions had been lifted, India was hopeful that this process would be taken to its logical conclusion.
Pointing out that U.S. high technology trade with China stood at $500 million, he said the figure for U.S.-India high technology trade, however, was only $100 million. According to the Foreign Secretary, there was a need to increase economic cooperation across the board between India and China.
Mr. Saran said the world was looking at India not because it was weak but because it was strong and referred to India's growing relationships with China, the European Union and other countries.
On the American-backed Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), Mr. Saran said India wanted to be among the core group of decision-makers and would like to make sure that PSI was in conformity with international law. He described Indian participation as an open question.
In a related development, a senior American official told presspersons that an announcement on civilian nuclear energy cooperation could be made during the Prime Minister's visit to Washington. (On his part, Mr. Saran said this issue should be looked at not as an event, but a process).