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India, US sign 10-yr defence agreement
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

INDIA and the USA on Tuesday entered into an agreement that “charts a course for the US-Indo defence relationship for the next 10 years”. The landmark agreement will facilitate joint weapons production, co-operation on missile defence and the transfer of technology.

The document, signed in Washington by US Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeks “new opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, co-production and research and development.”

“The United States and India have entered a new era,” a statement issued after the signing of the agreement said. “We are transforming our relationship to reflect our common principles and shared national interests.”

The Indian and US sides agreed to set up a new subgroup — “defence procurement and production group” — to oversee defence trade, as well as prospects for co-production and technology collaboration. A newly constituted Defence Joint Working Group, subordinate to the Defence Policy Group (DPG) will meet at least once every year to review the work overseen by DPG and its subgroups.

Noting that the two nations had advanced to “unprecedented levels of cooperation” since 1995, when the two countries signed the “Agreed Minute on Defence Relations,” the statement said the defence relationship would be part of the broader US-Indo strategic partnership.

In January 1995, US Defence Secretary William Perry signed the “Agreed Minute on Defence Relations” with his Indian counterpart, S. B. Chavan. However, the Clinton administration’s preoccupation with questions of nuclear non-proliferation had inhibited any significant expansion of military-to-military cooperation or dual-use technology transfers.

According to the agreement signed on Tuesday, the USA and India “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 noted that since the last Agreed Minute “changes in the international security environment have challenged our countries in ways unforeseen 10 years ago.” The agreement defined its goals as strengthening “our countries’ security, reinforce our strategic partnership, and build greater understanding between our defence establishments.”

“Both sides agreed that US-India defence relations are an important pillar of their transforming bilateral relationship,” the statement said. “Today, we agree on a new framework that builds on past successes, seizes new opportunities and charts a course for the US-Indo defence relationship for the next 10 years.”

The framework stated that both India and the US were entering a new era, “transforming our relationships to reflect our common principles and shared national interests.”

It added that the two sides would expand interaction with other nations in ways that promote regional and global peace and stability, and enhance capabilities to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking at the release of a report of the Joint Task Force of the Pacific Council on International Policy and Observer Research Foundation at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, Mr Mukherjee lauded the contribution of the Indian American community to the US-India ties.

US-India relations, he said, have been nourished by a “highly professional relationship in which Indians who have settled in the US have made a huge contribution.”

“Today, when the relationship changes as the report has described, ‘from uneasy cooperation to incipient partnership, it would be fair to recognize the role played by those in the strategic community as well as the range of Indian professionals who have contributed to this re-evaluation of India and the US-India relations,” he added.

Key members of the task force include former Indian ambassador to the US, Abid Hussain, former US ambassador to India, Richard F. Celeste, and former Indian Army Chief of Staff Gen V.P. Malik.

The task force’s report recommended removing barriers to strategic cooperation, particularly in the area of technology development, and expansion of commercial ties between India and the USA.

Mr Mukherjee had made a similar recommendation himself in a speech to a Washington think tank on Monday in which he appealed to the Bush administration to remove “anachronistic” restrictions on dual use nuclear and space technology cooperation.

The minister said the task force’s recommendations were “particularly timely” on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s July 18-20 visit to the United States “which we hope will be a prelude to President Bush’s visit to India, the first after President Clinton’s visit in March 2000.”


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