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US, India Discuss More Defense Cooperation - 2001-12-04


Senior U.S. officials visiting India say relations between the two countries are set to forge ahead. The two countries have also discussed plans to intensify defense cooperation.

State Department Policy Planning Director Richard Haas says the relationship between India and the United States is in "the best-ever condition." He said bilateral ties had been further strengthened by the close cooperation between the two countries after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

New Delhi had been among the first countries to offer assistance in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Mr. Haas says India's good relationship with the Northern Alliance and extensive knowledge of Afghanistan would help it to play an important role in international efforts to reconstruct the war-torn country. Mr. Haas is also the U.S. coordinator for policy regarding the future with Afghanistan.

Also visiting New Delhi is Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. He heads a defense policy group that met for the first time after India's 1998 nuclear tests. Mr. Feith's discussions with military planners focused on forging long-term military ties with India.

Mr. Feith says the defense cooperation will emphasize initiatives to counter terrorism and nuclear proliferation issues. "We also discussed cooperation in counter-terrorism generally, and there are ideas that have been put forward for exchanging expertise," he said. "The possibility of defense trade that would be relevant to counter-terrorism activity and the possibility of some joint exercises that would enhance the capabilities of both sides to deal with the terrorism problem."

The United States has approved the supply of some defense systems to New Delhi, such as weapon locating radars. Washington has also agreed to speed up review of other tactical weapons needed by New Delhi, such as engines and systems for light combat aircraft and multi mission maritime aircraft.

The partial lifting of sanctions in September cleared the way for India to acquire defense systems from American companies.

India was a strong ally of the former Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War paved the way for closer ties between the world's two biggest democracies. But a tentative start to building a bilateral defense relationship was disrupted by India's 1998 nuclear tests.

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