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Under President Donald Trump, US-India ties expected to conquer new Frontiers

An Indian American talks about how he believes US India ties will improve under Trump's administration and how it will be beneficial for India in the long run

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Washington, Mar 9, 2017: Under Trump’s administration, US-India ties are expected to conquer new frontiers, the two countries being “natural partners” with common interests, an Indian-American entrepreneur who is considered to be close to Vice President Mike Pence said.

“With Indian-Americans playing the role of an umbilical cord between the two countries, India and the United States have common interests in balancing the increasing economic and military influence of China in the Asia-Pacific region and fighting together the menace of terrorism in South and Central Asia,” said Indiana-based Gurinder Singh Khalsa told PTI in an interview.

Khalsa, the Chairman and Founder of Sikhs Political Action Committee, the SikhsPAC has emerged as a vocal leader of the Indian-American Sikhs.

“India and the United States are natural partners at this time. Both have an interest in balancing growing Chinese economic and military influence in southeast Asia. Both have an interest in fighting terrorism originating in central Asian areas like Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Khalsa told PTI.

Khalsa said that improving relations with the US would be of long-term benefit to India. The countries also have shared priorities in business, especially in IT and tech industries.China has been assertive in the disputed South China Sea region, building artificial islands which could potentially be used for military purposes. It is also building a number of ports in South Asian countries.

Khalsa has been a friend of Pence from the days when the present US Vice President wasn’t even elected as the Governor of Indiana.

Khalsa wishes to strengthen US-India relations and be the voice of the Indian-Americans and other similar ethnic communities in the US.

“(Pence) has been very outspoken about the need for more economic cooperation between India and Indiana. Prior to his selection as Vice President, he spoke to us about his intention to travel to India after the election. He wanted to be the first Indiana Governor to visit India after the election,” Khalsa said recollecting his meetings with Pence.

Khalsa, who was born in 1973, shifted to the US in 1996. Before moving to the US, he wrote four papers, including topics like India-Pakistan boundary disputes and extensive deforestation leading to environmental degradation in the Himalayas.

He spent five years in the insurance, finance and real estate sectors in California before moving to Indiana in 2008.Since 2003, he has developed a chain of businesses throughout California, Nevada and Indiana.

He first met Pence in 2012 in the gubernatorial camp, when they agreed on a meeting to discuss tax issues which involved some Indian gas station workers.

In 2007, a TSA agent refused to allow Khalsa on an airplane unless he removed his Turban. He argues that it would be a clear violation of Sikh religious practice, refusing to take off his turban and took forward this issue before the Congress and was successful in changing the headwear regulation of TSA.

The Turban is Considered to be a sign of respect by the Sikh Community; Source: Pixabay

“Because of this effort, Sikhs are now allowed to wear their turbans through airport security,” he said.

Now that Indian-Americans have proven their great skill as entrepreneurs and businessmen, Khalsa asserts that it is time for the community to step-up and serve in public office and the military.

“I mean, look, we have a rich history as soldiers and administrators in India,” he said.

“At this time, Indians account for about 1 per cent of the US population and the United States is overall more diverse than it has ever been.”

“This is an opportunity for both Indians and Americans. At the end of the day, Indians have done very well in the US in terms of business opportunities. SikhsPAC is a model for ensuring Indians have the resources they need to give back through service to their country. We’re already seeing great examples of this with the US military removing restrictions on soldiers wearing the turban and beard. That is progress on which we need to build,” Khalsa said.

– prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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Meaning of Denuclearization For North Korea

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Kim Jong Un is on the TV screen.
FILE - A visitor walks by a TV screen showing file footage of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 29, 2018. VOA

At the upcoming inter-Korean summit slated for late April, South Korea should seek a clear understanding of North Korea’s interpretation of what the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will mean, said former U.S. officials who have dealt with North Korea extensively.

As President Donald Trump appears to be optimistic about the prospects of potential talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the former U.S. officials remain skeptical Washington and Pyongyang share the same meaning of denuclearization.

U.S. officials confirmed on Sunday that North Korea directly told the White House that Kim would be interested in talks and was prepared to discuss denuclearization at a summit with Trump.

Kim Jong un and Donald Trump
North Korea plans on Denuclearization.

On Monday, Trump said, “I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties, and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea.” Trump said he’ll meet with Kim in late May or early June, but the date and place have not been confirmed.

Differing interpretations

Mitchell Reiss, director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department during the George W. Bush administration, urged caution until it is better known what Kim means when he says he is willing to talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“What North Korea means by denuclearization is very different than what the United States and what South Korea traditionally has meant by denuclearization,” said Reiss, who negotiated with the North over the nuclear issue in 1990s. “And in my conversations with North Koreans over the years, it is clear that the United States has to take a number of steps first, such as ending the alliance with South Korea, removing all of its military troops off the Korean Peninsula.”

Also Read: North Korea may have stopped its n-reactor, satellite images show

Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said South Korean President Moon Jae-in should seek out North Korea’s view of denuclearization during the inter-Korean summit as a way to pave the way for the U.S. to discuss denuclearization at the anticipated U.S.-North Korea summit.

“It’s a very important question to deal with – [North Korea’s] perception of denuclearization – before the president of the United States meets with Kim Jong Un,” said Wilder. “If the South Korean president could get more specifics as to how the North Koreans are looking at this question, that will help the United States set up the summit.”

Other former U.S. officials think that while Seoul should ask Pyongyang to clarify its meaning of denuclearization at the inter-Korean summit, the actual denuclearization talks should be left for the U.S. to discuss with North Korea.

“Denuclearization is, no doubt, going to be … a U.S. angle,” said William Brown, a former intelligence official who is now an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University. “The Moon and Kim summit should be getting ready for the denuclearization talks but not actually doing it for themselves.”

The extent of the discussion on denuclearization at the inter-Korean summit, according to Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction under president Barack Obama, should be limited to “South Korea having a statement, a communique of a North Korean intent to pursue denuclearization.”

Samore thinks Pyongyang’s written denuclearization intent “will be sufficient for the first meeting.”

Kim Jong Un, the north korean leader.
FILE – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). VOA

‘Broad terms’

Robert Gallucci, chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis in 1994, said the inter-Korean summit should create an atmosphere for “future conversations between experts” by touching up on a general framework of talks. He said, “It’s less important that they make a detailed progress in their meeting than it is that they agree on broad terms of what they are trying to accomplish and where they end up.”

Christopher Hill, who negotiated with the North as head of the U.S. delegation during the George W. Bush administration, said close coordination and cooperation between Seoul and Washington are critical when discussing security issues in particular.

“It’s especially important that the South Korean and the U.S. governments continue to have a pattern of close cooperation” and “an adequate consultation to make sure that there’s an agreed pace of progress,” Hill said.

Former U.S. officials are concerned that Seoul would get too far ahead in engaging Pyongyang at the inter-Korean summit and offer incentives such as economic and humanitarian aid and the easing of sanctions imposed against North Korea.

Denuclearization on the mind of Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong-un reportedly declares he is ‘committed to denuclearization’ on the Korean Peninsula

They particularly cautioned that Seoul must stay tough on sanctions. Trump has repeatedly credited sanctions imposed on North Korea as the impetus behind the current thaw in relations.

“I think it will be a big problem if the South Korean side starts to cut back on sanctions,” Brown said.

Also Read: Tense US-North Korea Standoff Slowly Escalates

Wilder voiced similar concerns and warned, “Do not lift the sanctions too soon. The past mistake was to get too easy on North Korea too soon.” Brown and other experts are worried that if Seoul eases sanctions before Kim agrees to take concrete action toward denuclearization, South Korea will undermine Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign.

Seoul and Pyongyang will hold their summit on April 27 in the border village of Panmunjom.

Kim’s intent to discuss denuclearization was initially conveyed by South Korean envoys who traveled to Washington in early March to brief Trump on their meeting with Kim in Pyongyang held a few days earlier.

Christy Lee contributed to this report.  VOA