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India, US ink 10-yr pact for defence cooperation

Washington, June 29
Upgrading their defence ties, India and the United States have signed a 10-year agreement that envisages stepped up military cooperation in various fields, including joint weapons production, technology transfer and collaboration on missile defence.

Three weeks before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US, the "new framework for the US-India defence relationship" was signed by visiting Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld after detailed discussions.

In recognition of the growing breadth and depth of the US-India strategic defence relationship, the two countries also established a Defence Procurement and Production Group and agreed to institute a Joint Working Group for mid-year review of the functioning of the already-existing Defence Policy Group that guides the Indo-US defence ties.

The framework statement said the relations between India and the US were entering a new era and agreed that their defence relations were an "important pillar of their transforming bilateral relationship".

The framework for the next 10 years calls for cooperation for maintaining security and stability, defeating terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and protecting the free flow of commerce via land, air and sea lanes.

In the context of the "strategic relationship", both sides agreed to expand two-way defence trade, increase opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, co-production, and research and development.

India and the US also agreed to expand collaboration relating to missile defence.

The agreement said the two countries "will work to conclude defence transactions, not solely as ends in and of themselves, but as a means to strengthen our countries' security, reinforce our strategic partnership, achieve greater interaction between our armed forces, and build greater understanding between our defence establishments."

It envisaged joint and combined exercises and exchanges between both sides, increased cooperation in the areas of worldwide peacekeeping operations and expansion of interaction with other nations in ways that promote regional and global peace and stability.

Acknowledging that defence ties between the two countries have advanced to "unprecedented levels of cooperation unimaginable since 1985, they agreed to conduct exchanges on defence strategy and defence transformation.

They resolved to increase intelligence exchanges and strengthen abilities of the two sides to respond quickly to disaster situations and continue strategic-level discussions by senior leadership from the Ministries of Defence.

Mr Mukherjee later told reporters that Indo-US defence cooperation should not be viewed as being at the expense of Russia.

He said there should not be any restrictions on the transfer of technology to India because its performance with respect to maintaining credibility (of safeguards) is very high. "All restrictions on transfers of technology to India should, therefore, be dropped," he said.

"They will have to understand each other's procedure in more details… defence procurement procedure in India and licensing system in the USA," he said. — PTI


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