Antony to focus on defence cooperation during US visit

September 4th, 2008 - 10:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony will meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates during his visit to the US Sep 7-10. Antony is travelling to the US at the invitation Gates, who visited India this February.

“During his visit, the defence minister is scheduled to hold meetings with Gates on important bilateral issues relating to defence. He will also be meeting National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,” a defence ministry statement said Thursday.

The delegation will comprise of Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, Director General (Acquisitions) and three senior officers from the army, navy and air force. Antony last visited the USA in June 2005.

“The discussions are expected to include the regional security scenario and matters of mutual concern,” the statement said.

Antony will also visit the Arlington National Cemetery and lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Air Force Memorial.

His visit comes at a time when three important Indo-US pacts are close to be finalized.

Under one of the pacts, the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), the Indian and US militaries can refuel ships and aircraft in cashless transactions that are balanced at the end of the year.

Apart from the LSA, the other pacts are the Communication Inter-operability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that will enable the two militaries communicate on a common platform, and an end-user agreement governing the sale of US military hardware to India.

These pacts have been on the backburner for long due to the objections of the Left parties. With the communists having withdrawn their outside support to the government and the UPA government winning a trust vote in parliament, the way is now clear for inking the agreements, a defence ministry official said.

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