Cut through red tape to enhance US-India defence cooperation: PanettaJune 6th, 2012 - 9:09 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) The US-India defence partnership “is coming of age” but both countries need to cut through the red tape to realise its full potential, particularly in the area of technology transfer, visiting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said here Wednesday.
“At a practical level, our defence partnership is coming of age. Expanded military exercises, defence sales and intelligence sharing are key examples of the relationship’s maturation. Last year alone we held more than 50 cooperative defence events,” Panetta said while delivering a lecture on Indo-US relations at defence ministry-funded think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
“But to realise the full potential of defence trade relations, we need to cut through the bureaucratic red tape on both sides,” he said, adding he had asked Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter “to lead an effort at the Pentagon to engage with Indian leaders on a new initiative to streamline our bureaucratic processes and make our defence trade more simple, responsive and effective”.
Panetta Tuesday began a two-day visit to India, the last stop of a nine-day tour that, in his words, took him from “Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii, to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Cm Ranh Bay and Hanoi in Vietnam and has now brought me here”.
He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon on Tuesday and Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday.
Admitting that what he was asking for “will be hard”, he added: “But that’s the nature of the democratic systems that we share… Over the long term, I am certain that we will transition our defence trade beyond the ‘buyer-seller’ relationship to substantial co-production and, eventually, high-technology joint research and development.”
Despite the red tape, India has purchased, or is in the process of purchasing military hardware worth $8 billion from the US. This includes C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft, C-130J Super Hercules medium transport aircraft, P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Harpoon missiles.
Besides, negotiations are underway for the acquisition of Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and M777 ultra-light howitzers.
Laying at rest apprehensions that the US will use India in its strategy to contain China, Panetta said: “As the United States and India deepen our defence partnerships with each other, both of us will also seek to strengthen our relations with China. We recognise that China has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity in this region.”
Panetta also lauded India’s support for the US efforts in gradually handing over Afghanistan the responsibility of security, governance and economic affairs and urged the Indian leadership to “continue with additional support to Afghanistan through trade and investment, reconstruction and help for the security forces”.
Terming the relationship with Pakistan as complicated for both India and the US, Panetta emphasised on working towards improving ties with Islamabad. He praised India and Pakistan’s efforts towards normalizing trade relations, a process which he said was a key towards resolving their differences and in helping Pakistan turn around its economy and counter extremism within its borders.
Referring to the US “rebalancing” itself toward the Asia-Pacific region, Panetta said: “In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia.”
India had a key role to play in this, he said.
“Defence cooperation with India is a linchpin to this strategy. India is one of the largest and most dynamic countries in the region, with one of the most capable militaries. India also shares with the United States a strong commitment to a set of principles that help maintain international security and prosperity,” Panetta added.
During the interactive session that followed, the US defense secretary said the new strategy, which would see 60 percent of its warships transferred to the Pacific, would enable the US “confront more than one enemy at the same time”.
“Let’s say something happens in North Korea and simultaneously in the Strait of Hormuz. We have to be prepared to confront both,” Panetta said.
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