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US-India Defense Policy Group Condemns Terrorist Attacks in India - 2002-05-23

Senior U.S. and Indian defense officials have ended four days of talks in Washington, issuing a statement that includes a condemnation of terrorist attacks in India.

The three-page statement issued by the Pentagon on the discussions of the U.S.-India Defense Policy Group was unusual both because of its length and its detail.

But Pentagon officials were quick to explain the extraordinary transparency was intended to head off in advance possible Pakistani claims that the United States had held "secret defense talks" with its archrival India at a time of heightened tensions in South Asia.

Those tensions have been sparked by terrorist attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir, attacks India has blamed on Pakistan and which were condemned in the joint statement. It made no direct reference to Pakistan but said the United States and India agreed an end to terrorism was critical to ensuring a future of peace and stability in South Asia as well as around the world.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this week called the situation in South Asia dangerous. He said the Bush administration was calling on both sides to show restraint.

The tensions have so far had no direct effect on American counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. But U.S. officials have said more Pakistani troops would be deployed along the Afghan border in support of those operations were it not for the threat of war with India.

In this week's Washington talks, U.S. and Indian defense officials agreed to discuss counter-terrorism equipment requirements for India's special operations forces. But the statement noted the talks were planned months in advance and covered a host of subjects besides terrorism.

These included efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, and missile defenses as a tool for enhancing security and stability. The two sides agreed to hold a missile defense workshop in New Delhi at a future date.

They also agreed on specialized military training programs and joint exercises over the next year. One will be a multi-national peacekeeping exercise scheduled to be held in Bangladesh in September. Another will be a peacekeeping command exercise to be held in New Delhi in early 2003.