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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE COMMENTARY A New Strategic Partnership For the U.S. and India By KENNETH I. JUSTER October 1, 2004 U.S.

President George W. Bush's recent meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York on Sept. 21 set the seal on a remarkable nine months in U.S.-India relations, and provided further impetus toward a mature and productive partnership between the world's two largest democracies. The U.S. and India have come a long way in a very short time. For decades, relations were stymied by differing approaches to the Cold War world, incompatible economic systems, and concerns over nuclear weapons.

More recently, however, governments in both countries, of all political stripes, have realized that each has more to gain by cooperation than by mere coexistence, and have made efforts to put the relationship on a stronger basis. The path has not always been straightforward. India's 1998 nuclear tests were a particularly contentious point between the two countries. So, while then U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to India in March 2000 provided momentum in moving U.S.-India relations onto a constructive course, the impact was limited by the inability of the two sides to bridge the gap presented by their differing perspectives on the nuclear issue.

This was the situation that faced the incoming Bush Administration. Rather than remaining stalled on impediments and history, however, the Administration chose to deal with the realities on the ground in a way that would unlock the potential of the relationship to the benefit of both countries without compromising security or nonproliferation principles. Building on the two countries' shared democratic values and overlapping interests in stability in Asia and beyond, in combating global terrorism, and in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, President Bush sought to establish a productive and sustainable long-term strategic partnership with India that would stand the test of time.

That vision was the driving force, from the U.S. side, that led to the creation of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) initiative, which President Bush and then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced in January. The NSSP was carefully named. It sets out a framework within which the U.S. and India can develop a true strategic partnership, beginning with expanded cooperation in areas important to both countries: high-technology trade, civilian space programs, civilian nuclear activities, and missile defense. The NSSP is designed to progress through a series of reciprocal steps that build on each other. It responds to India's desire for increased access to U.S. technology for peaceful purposes by liberalizing trade in such technology in a manner that is consistent with U.S. nonproliferation laws and obligations, and does not contribute to India's programs for nuclear weapons and their means of delivery.

The NSSP is grounded in the realization that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. It acknowledges India's role as a major power, while appreciating that it takes time to build a lasting strategic partnership. It sets up a process to create and build upon successes, while establishing habits of cooperation that extend deep into the governmental fabric of both countries. The Sept. 21 meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Singh celebrated the completion of the first phase of the NSSP, which included the implementation of measures to address proliferation issues and ensure that U.S.-origin goods and technologies are used in accordance with U.S. export-control requirements. These measures allowed the U.S. to modify its export-licensing policies to foster increased cooperation in commercial space programs and permit certain exports to power plants at safeguarded nuclear facilities. Future steps will build upon this process of enhancing security and expanding trade.

While not attempting to resolve all differences, the NSSP is designed to send a strong signal to both publics of the two governments' commitment to moving forward through joint activity. Indeed, the U.S. and India realize that the strategic partnership requires a strong commercial underpinning that builds trust and positive relationships throughout both societies. That is why the NSSP is combined with engagement with the private sector through the U.S.-India Economic Dialogue and the High Technology Cooperation Group, which together address a broad array of trade, economic and security issues. Given the depth and range of the current engagement, both countries can now look ahead with realism, but without equivocation, to the kind of mature relationship that the people of the U.S. and India deserve -- one in which the two countries understand their common interests and work together to achieve them, one in which they understand the problems between them and work together to solve them.

Mr. Juster is the U.S. undersecretary of commerce, and one of the architects of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership initiative.