Gates’ visit will prepare way for Obama’s India visit: Expert (Lead)

January 21st, 2010 - 2:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Washington, Jan 21 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to India on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful visit to Washington last November will sustain the momentum in US-India ties and prepare the way for the potential visit of President Barack Obama, says a US expert.
It would also prepare the way for a potential visit by Obama to India this summer, wrote Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow for South Asia at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

On this “important visit to India, the South Asian giant whose partnership is critical to stabilising the region and checking terrorism trends that jeopardise world security”, Gates also will take the temperature on India-Pakistan relations more than one year after the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist attacks in Mumbai, she said.

Many US officials shared New Delhi’s assessment that the Pakistani military could be doing more to crack down on terrorists that attack India, Curtis wrote noting “that appears to have been borne out by the investigation of the David Headley case, which has confirmed links between the Pakistan military and the LeT”.

An opening toward Islamabad also will not preclude Indian leaders from expressing their disapproval of US military aid to Pakistan on grounds that the equipment is aimed at strengthening Pakistan’s ability to counter India, not terrorists, she said.

While regional security is expected to top the agenda of Gates’ three-day visit, he also will seek to bolster US-India defence trade, Curtis said.

Russia still provides 80 percent of India’s military hardware, but the US is beginning to break into the rapidly expanding Indian defence market.

Over the last two years, India has purchased over $3 billion in military equipment from the US, including eight maritime reconnaissance aircraft and six C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

The two countries are moving toward completing their largest defence transaction yet (about $2.5 billion) with India’s potential purchase of ten strategic airlift aircraft.

Curtis suggested Gates will push for India’s signature on a Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which are required under US domestic laws to transfer sensitive defence technologies and would pave the way for greater defence trade and cooperation with New Delhi.

The signing of one or both of these agreements during the Gates’ visit would represent a major stride forward in cementing the US-India strategic partnership, she said.

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