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Indo-US army-level talks from today

New Delhi, February 3
In a bid to give a fillip to military cooperation, India and the USA will begin week-long top level Army and naval interactions from tomorrow aimed at kickstarting joint exercises and building mechanism to exchange information on terrorist organisations.

A top level US army team is already here and would hold extensive parleys with the Indian Army officials led by Vice-Chief of the Army Staff Lieut-Gen N.C. Vij, official sources said.

Besides Gen Vij, the Indian side at the talks would include the Director-General of Military Operations, Lieut-Gen J.S. Chahal, and Director-General, Military Intelligence, Lieut-Gen O.S. Lochab.

The US delegation, which includes top army and marine core officers from the Pacific Command, will hold discussions centred on building up a mechanism on exchange of information on terrorists organisation and threats.

Simultaneously, a US naval delegation led by Vice Admiral V.J. Metzger, Commander of the USís Seventh Fleet, would hold talks in Chennai from Tuesday with top brass from Indian Navyís Eastern and Southern Commands.

The visit of the US delegations comes close on the heels of announcement made by US Ambassador Robert Blackwill here recently that a proposal for arms sale to India had been sent for clearance to the US Congress.

The proposal includes sale of weapon locating radar, electronic sensors and engines for the light combat aircraft and naval reconnaissance maritime aircraft and helicopters.

The visit of US naval delegation assumes significance in the wake of recent statement by Defence Minister George Fernandes that the US proposal for the Indian Navy to join in policing of the crucial Malacca Straits, has been sent to the Cabinet for approval.

The two sides, would also exchange experiences on military tactics to be used to battle terrorist groups especially mercenary outfits whose operations transcend national boundaries.

The naval talks, officials said, would be on reopening of the Malabar series of Indo-US joint exercises frozen after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. During the talks, some warships from the USís Seventh Fleet Armada would be making port calls in Chennai. PTIBack

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