What do you best know US senator Larry Pressler for? Pressler Amendment of 1990, of course, which put certain conditions on US aid to Pakistan. So no surprise really to find him "hailing" prime minister Vajpayee's initiative for talks with General Musharraf, but what is surprising is to find him in Bangalore.
So what's he in Bangalore for? To attend Saturday's AGM of Nasdaq-listed Infosys Techologies Limited. Excerpts from his chat with the reporters in Bangalore today:
"It's unfortunate that India and Pakistan have not resolved their dispute. The whole world wants this conflict between India and Pakistan to end. There is a yearning in the world that India and Pakistan should settle their disputes somehow and put them behind them...This they will some day. Sooner rather than later."
"I am glad to see that the US is becoming much more pro-India. That will send a signal that Pakistan will have to work with India. We can offset China by moving closer to India. Pakistan will behave better if we become closer to India," he said, adding that he was delighted over the Indian government endorsing the National Missile Defence, proposed by President Bush, last month, and that New Delhi's response had been well received in the US.
"We (the US) have to upgrade...Diplomatically or otherwise the treatment of India...The Bush administration is doing a good job, and India is also responding very well," he said.
Asked if he saw a role for the US to mediate between India and Pakistan, he said it was up to India and Pakistan. "I don't really think this (dispute) can be solved by people from outside the region," he said, adding it should be settled between the two countries.
Strongly advocating creation of a Free Trade Zone between the US and India on the lines of the one existing between the US and Mexico, Canada, some African countries and Israel, he said it would greatly benefit the two democracies. To drive home his point, he said India and the US have a "magical synergy" but expressed apprehensions as to how labour unions in India would react to the proposal.
In a comment that's hardly encouraging for Indian information technology companies hit by economic lowdown in the US, he said the US economy was in for a long and tough downturn and added that he did not see a turnaround in the next three years.
"It's not a recession but a big slowdown. It's not going to be a depression. Over the next three years, there is going to be substantially slow economic growth"