The National Interest: You were quoted describing the U.S.-Indian civil nuclear deal as "one of the most thoughtful approaches to foreign policy in the last 25 years."
Chuck Hagel: South Asia is potentially the most dangerous region in the world. All of the most dangerous and combustible elements are present. You have four nuclear powers: Russia, China, India and Pakistan, and a fifth aspirant, Iran. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is the focal point for a good deal of terrorist-extremist activity; the Taliban has been reasserting itself and has re-emerged in that area. There are tremendous fault lines--cultural, historical, tribal and religious--which run throughout the region. One does not have to look much further than the question of Jammu and Kashmir and how it divides Pakistan and India.
I do believe that the agreement that President Bush signed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a wide range of areas for joint cooperation, including nuclear, security, economic, education, agriculture and science, represents some of the most creative strategic thinking we've seen in some time. At the core of the agreement is energy--and the need for energy is the driving force that brings all countries and societies together. India is set, within 25 years, to overtake China as the world's most populous nation. If the Indian economy is to grow to address this great explosion in population, a stable and secure supply of energy is required. The same, by the way, is true for China and other developing countries, not to mention for the developed world.
It bears repeating that energy is the driving force behind growth--and economic growth means more jobs, better standards of living and more productivity. This enhances people's standards of living and their prospects for the future. This translates into stability and security. All of this is interconnected. This is why I think this comprehensive agreement is …