Saturday, August 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Indo-US strategic ties gain impetus
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 8
Indo-US strategic relations are poised for a giant leap forward with a host of decisions taken by the two countries in the past two days, including Washington’s approval to sell to New Delhi in the coming year training materials and specialised equipment to support India’s peacekeeping training capabilities.

The decision comes at a time when Washington has gone on record saying that it considers the issue of India sending troops to Iraq still open as New Delhi has not said a “flat no” so far.

In another important development, a US team is to arrive here next month to discuss the details of the possible sale of P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The P-3 Orions, manufactured by Israel, will beef up the Indian strategic arsenal in a big way if Washington formally gives the green signal to Tel Aviv for going ahead with the sale.

Washington has also agreed to review counter-terrorism equipment requirements for India’s special operations forces and sell the equipment to India which it has desisted from doing so far.

These decisions were taken at the Indo-US Defence Policy Group (DPG) meeting which concluded in Washington, yesterday.

According to information received by the Ministry of External Affairs here today, the two sides approved a range of activities for the coming year, including:

* Specialised training programmes and joint exercises to be carried out by the armed services of the two countries, including an air combat training exercise.

* Continued development of a defence supply relationship, including through the government-to-government Foreign Ministry Sales Programme. P-3 Orions sale would be discussed by this team.

According to sources here, the diplomatic symbolism of the DPG meeting was immense and reflected the growing cooperation between the two countries in military and strategic spheres.

This was reflected by the fact that Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad, who led the Indian delegation, met senior political and military leadership of the USA, including Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers.

At the end of the DPG meeting, the two sides also issued a joint statement which said, “The USA and India have continued to work together to enhance their capabilities to combat terrorism and increase inter-operability. The two delegations highlighted the importance of the ongoing series of joint and combined exercises in building inter-operability between US and Indian armed forces and agreed to continue this interaction.”

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