The Pentagon's top policy planner said today that the United States' long-term strategic interests could be served by providing India with enough advanced weapons technology to turn it into a military power strong enough to play a major role in global stability late in this century.
Drawing a parallel to the 1970s shift in U.S. policy toward China, Fred C. Ikle, undersecretary of defense for policy, said in an interview that transfer of sophisticated U.S. military technology would not only reduce India's arms dependence on the Soviet Union but could give India a position of leadership in determining world strategic goals compatible with those of the United States.
His remarks followed two days of talks with senior Indian defense officials and political leaders. He said he made the same suggestions in an address yesterday to a closed-door meeting of the Indian national defense college.
Ikle said in the interview that Indian leaders are particularly interested in obtaining high technology equipment and expertise to develop their own modern, high-performance weapons systems.
Noting that it is in the United States' interest to make India less dependent on the Soviet Union for its arms, Ikle said, "It should stimulate some broader, maybe longer-term thinking in Washington as to the security interests of the United States, how the United States can relate to such an India toward the end of this century and early next century, in which, given the underlying, basic affinity to the West in language, culture and democracy . . . India could be a power that contributes to world stability the way the United States will see it and want to shape it in 1995 and the year 2005, and a power with which we can work together much as we try to work together with other major powers now to enhance our long-term national security aims."
He added, "And that, I think, is an exciting possibility and perhaps opens a new chapter in United States-Indian relations."
Ikle said he did not know how his concepts about Indian "power capability projection" would be received by policy-makers in Washington, but he said, "It's something I personally want to seriously explore."
The Pentagon official stressed, however, that the United States would have to move cautiously in helping India to develop the most modern weapons systems because of the sensitivities of neighboring South Asian nations, including Pakistan, with which India has fought three wars since the Subcontinent was partitioned in 1947.