Bush announces new ties with India despite strains

Nations will work against terrorism, leaders say

War On Terrorism

The World

November 10, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - Despite criticism from India's prime minister of the way the United States has conducted the war against Afghanistan, President Bush announced yesterday that he will step up economic, military and counterterrorism ties with India.

"My administration is committed to developing a fundamentally different relationship with India," Bush said after an Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Bush and Vajpayee discussed ways to improve U.S.-India relations, including Indian contributions to the coalition against terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taliban leadership.

The two leaders agreed to further cooperation against terrorism, particularly cyberterrorism. India is the world's second-largest software producer, after the United States.

Ties between India and the United States have been strained since India tested atomic weapons in 1998. Bush recently lifted the last of several sanctions imposed after the tests.

Bush and Vajpayee said yesterday that India would have a role in rebuilding Afghanistan.

The administration wants Indian navy ships to help refuel U.S. ships in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

It is also seeking an agreement to conduct military training operations in India, according to Lt. Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

Bush's renewed support for India came in spite of Vajpayee's criticism of the administration for "slackening" the pace of military operations. He told the Washington Post that "the campaign cannot be described as fully satisfactory."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer played down the criticism. He said Vajpayee had assured Bush that "India stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States." Fleischer described their talks as "very positive."

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