Vol. 5 Num 195 Fri. December 10, 2004  

South Asia
US for boosting defence ties with India
Rumsfeld holds talks with Indian leaders

On his first trip to India since the reelection of US President George W Bush, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday said his country wanted bilateral defence ties to be further "knitted" together.

Talking to reporters emerging from a 90-minute discussion with Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee here, Rumsfeld said "we had excellent discussion and we discussed all kinds of things that are important for our two ministries."

"We intend to see these ties further knitted together in coming months and years," the US Defence Secretary said a day after his arrival here.

Rumsfeld also held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor J N Dixit later in the day.

The visit by the American defence secretary is his first since Congress-led government came to power in May this year after general elections.

Rumsfeld's trip to New Delhi takes place in the backdrop of India's concern over the US move to supply anti-tank missiles and maritime surveillance aircraft to Pakistan saying this could affect Indo-Pak dialogue process which is now at a very "sensitive" stage.

Natwar Singh told Parliament Wednesday that "in case the US supplies the weapons to Pakistan, India will not hesitate to ensure that our defence preparedness is not compromised in any manner."

Rumsfeld said India and US needed to develop "stronger and stronger cooperative relations" which has emerged in the last four years. He cited numerous defence interactions, joint military exercises and exchanges as an indication of growing relations between the two countries.

Mukherjee said the two countries had "useful discussions on issues of mutual interests".

Rumsfeld indicated the US considered India as a key partner by saying that he had chosen to visit the "world's greatest democracy" after attending the inauguration of first elected President in the history of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. Noting that he was privileged to visit India, the US defence secretary said after assuming his office the first thing he had done was to meet the Indian representatives.

Rumsfeld and Mukherjee declined to say anything on the issues they discussed at their meeting. But according to officials India and the US are close to reaching an agreement on the US Navy providing assistance to Indian Navy submarines in case of distress in the high seas.

The two countries are also involved in a substantive dialogue over the supply of US controversial missile defence system based on Patriot missiles and Deep-Sea Rescue Vehicles.

The two countries recently agreed to explore cooperation in space research and civilian nuclear programmes.

The External Affairs Minister had told Parliament Wednesday that India has not given any commitment about its participation in the missile defence. The Left parties, which provide key support to Manmohan Singh government, have strongly opposed to India's joining the American missile defence shield.

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld (L) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi yesterday. Rumsfeld said he would built stronger defence ties with India, a day after New Delhi warned Washington against selling warplanes and weapons to nuclear rival Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP