Obama for boosting strategic partnership with India

April 30th, 2009 - 9:52 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 30 (IANS) President Barack Obama ’s pick for a key Pentagon policy post has indicated that he favours bolstering the relationship the previous Bush administration fashioned with India, “a critical strategic partner of the United States.”

“I believe there is potential for greater intelligence sharing on common threats, cooperation on missile defence, and working towards stability in Afghanistan,” Wallace Gregson, the nominee to become assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said in a testimony to the US Senate Monday.

He suggested US priorities for the relationship with India “should be focused on increasing maritime security cooperation, cooperating on counter-proliferation, collaborating on humanitarian assistance and disaster response, dealing with piracy, finding ways to cooperate on counter-terrorism, and deepening defence trade.”

Gregson also told senators that he favours imposing detailed benchmarks on Pakistani officials for combating extremist Islamic groups operating there and tying any further military aid to Pakistan to these benchmarks.

Under questioning from 20008 Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gregson said any further military assistance Washington gives Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda should hold Islamabad accountable for reaching a series of goals.

Gregson appeared before the panel to testify about his confirmation to become assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.

Some senior Democratic lawmakers recently endorsed the notion of tying any military aid for Pakistan to specific goals Islamabad must show progress toward.

McCain suggested such stipulations should be written into any further aid packages. Islamabad’s “recent actions have been counter” to rolling back Taliban and Al Qaeda power grabs in Pakistan.

In written answers to the panel’s advance policy questions, Gregson said:

“While the Pakistani government has conducted several military operations in the past against militants in border areas, the region remains a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban-affiliated groups.”

In a blunt assessment of the situation there, the retired Marine Corps lieutenant general wrote “the threat appears to be increasing.”

Gregson defined his understanding of the administration’s primary objective for Afghanistan: “eliminating extremist threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan by disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan and preventing their return to Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

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