29 November 2001
A senior U.S. Commander is visiting India as part of efforts by the two countries to step up military cooperation. The United States and India have resumed a military relationship that had been on hold since New Delhi conducted nuclear tests in 1998.
The chief of the U.S. Pacific military command, Admiral Dennis Blair, says a robust defense relationship between the two countries can play an important role in contributing to peace, security and freedom in Asia.
At a meeting in Washington earlier this month, President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee agreed to intensify the two nations' military ties.
Admiral Blair describes the growing relationship as "unprecedented" in the two nations' history." He says it will be "non-traditional and dynamic", not focused on signing defense pacts, but on enhancing global security.
He says the two sides will increase counter terrorism cooperation through sharing of intelligence. They will also counter the growing threat of piracy that commercial ships now face in the sea lanes from the Middle East to East Asia. "We seek to work closely with India's military services on multilateral security issues. These include protection of energy supplies, sea lanes, peacekeeping, and preparing for crises which we cannot now foresee," Admiral Blair said.
Admiral Blair says joint military exercises between the two countries will be resumed in the coming months. His comments came after he met senior Indian defense officials and cabinet ministers to discuss specific areas of cooperation. These will include joint training of U.S. marine units and Indian forces.
India is an ally of the United States in the global campaign against terrorism. But the process of expanding military cooperation between the two sides began before the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York and is part of a broader American strategy to deepen relations with India on issues that include trade and anti-terrorism. New Delhi is also anxious to build a strategic relationship with the United States.
The bilateral defense relationship got a boost after the United States in September partially lifted sanctions imposed after India's 1998 nuclear tests. Several senior American defense officials are visiting New Delhi in the coming weeks to map a path to the military cooperation.