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Gates Visit Aims to Bolster U.S.-India Ties, Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 18, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he sees his visit to India as another step toward expanding the two countries’ solid defense relationship, particularly in light of the common threats they face.

“It will be a further review of progress we are making in expanding the relationship – whether it is training, exercises or defense trade,” Gates told reporters during the flight to New Delhi.

“All these things have grown significantly” since the two countries signed a defense framework agreement in 2005, he said.

Gates noted the United States and India’s long-standing shared values and interests in an op-ed piece to be published in the Dec. 19 issue of “Times of India.”

“At the same time, the security threats and challenges of the 21st century present new opportunities for our nations and militaries to work together in unprecedented ways,” he wrote. “I arrive in New Delhi today believing firmly that we must seize these opportunities because the peace and security of South Asia is critical not just to this region, but also to the entire international community.”

Gate called terrorism the greatest common challenge the two countries face.

In recognition of that threat, President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a memo of understanding in November, reaffirming their commitment to work together to counter terrorism and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology.

Gates also recognized India’s role in Afghanistan, where it has pledged $1.3 billion for development, and to disaster relief and peacekeeping missions beyond its borders.

The secretary also cited strides the United States and India have made in developing a stable defense trade, most recently with India’s decision to buy U.S. transport aircraft and other military equipment. “The U.S. defense industry produces the best products in the world, and using the same platforms also enhances our militaries’ ability to interact and communicate more effectively,” he wrote.

More opportunities for closer cooperation in sharing technology and increasing two-way information flow are out there, he said, acknowledging that current policies hamper them to some extent.

“We both have to reexamine policies dealing with exchanging technology,” he wrote. “Moving forward together on certain regulatory measures in this area – especially those dictated by United States law – will enable greater levels of cooperation and provide tangible benefits for both governments and economies.”

Gates’ visit to India is his first since February 2008, when he arrived with his arm in a cast after slipping on ice in Washington. He said he looked to returning, this time, “with two working wings on this trip.”

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