The Indian Defence Minister AK Antony has held a meeting with his visiting US counterpart Leon Panetta in New Delhi where India’s Defence acquisitions and its role in the region were discussed. The US Secretary of Defence has concluded his two day visit to India and met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon earlier as well and discussed the Indo-US Defence cooperation.
The U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has assured that US would initiate measures to facilitate technology access and sharing. While talking to Defence Minister AK Antony, Panetta also focused on India and US' strategic and military relationship and the situation in the AF-Pak region. The discussions also included China's growing Defence spending.
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panneta’s visit to India is part of his week-long Asia tour to reveal the new US military strategy to allies and partners in the region. The US strategy calls for a shift in U.S. focus to the Asia-Pacific region. Panetta’s visit comes ahead of the India-US strategic dialogue in Washington next week between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
During the meet, Panetta indicated that U S was developing a new Defence strategy and cooperation with India is a lynchpin in this strategy since India has the most capable military in the region. Mr. Panetta said India and US had held more than 50 cooperative Defence exchanges last year, which provided opportunities for the two militaries to learn from each other.
As for India’s acquisition of Defence wares from US, Panetta assured that India will soon have the second largest fleet of C-17 transport aircraft in the world and that India and US will be the only countries operating the P8-I maritime surveillance aircraft. Besides, negotiations are going on for the acquisition of Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and M777 ultra-light howitzers, Panetta added.
As for Defence Minister AK Antony, he emphasized that that the priority for India was to move beyond the buyer-seller transactions and to focus on transfer of technologies and partnerships to build indigenous capabilities. Regarding Asia-Pacific region, Mr. Antony said India supported unhindered freedom of navigation in international waters for all. At the same time, with regard to bilateral issues, he stressed that it was desirable that the parties concerned should settle contentious matters in accordance with international laws.
Meanwhile back in the US, Department of Defence spokesman Captain John Kirby and Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, stated that India does have the institutional capacity to become a global power since it is meeting its responsibilities. US have also appreciated the fact that India provides continual support in Afghanistan.