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Pace Arrives in India to Reaffirm Strategic Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2006 – The highest-ranking U.S. military officer arrived here today to discuss regional security issues in this strategic nation that, with its 1.1 billion population, represents the world's largest democracy.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with India's military leaders and defense minister during a visit that also includes stops at the headquarters of India's Training Command at Shimla.

The visit, Pace's first to India as chairman, will build on discussions during a bilateral meeting he participated in yesterday in Singapore with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherje. That session was conducted during the Asia security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. The summit, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, brought together some 250 defense ministers and government officials from throughout the region to discuss military, economic and diplomatic issues.

During his keynote address at the summit yesterday, Rumsfeld praised strides in the U.S.-India relationship. It "has grown from an uneasy coexistence during the Cold War to a true partnership, based on our common values and common interests today," the secretary said.

During a question-and-answer session following his address, Rumsfeld expressed optimism that this common interest "will continue to bring us together, from a military-to-military standpoint, in the months and years to come."

India's defense minister, speaking at a plenary session, discussed his country's goal of promoting rapid economic and social development while maintaining national security.

India strives to resolve disputes through diplomacy, but recognizes that a strong military is critical to the success of those efforts, Mukherjee told the audience. "A large and vibrant democracy with a diverse social, religious and economic background of its peoples, the country finds that its peaceful stance has to be backed up by a credible and stable military deterrent with necessary command and control structures," he said.

Mukherjee called the bilateral meeting "very useful" and noted the smooth cooperation that continues between India and the United States in all sectors, particularly since their framework agreement on defense issues.

The agreement, signed in June 2005, steps up military cooperation between the two countries, already close partners in the counterterrorism, maritime security, military logistics support, defense trade and nonproliferation arenas.

Pace's visit comes three months after President Bush visited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here to reaffirm U.S.-India cooperation in expanding freedom and economic prosperity and defeating international terrorism.

"The United States and India, separated by half the globe, are closer than ever before, and the partnership between our free nations has the power to transform the world," Bush said during his early March visit. "India in the 21st century is a natural partner of the United States, because we are brothers in this cause of human liberty."

Bush said terrorists are mistaken if they think their tactics can scare free nations into giving up without a fight. "America and India love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it," he said.

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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