Pace, Indian Leaders Explore Expanded Partnership Options
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2006 The top U.S. general spent today meeting with India's defense and military leaders to consider ways for the United States and India to further expand their military partnership.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace (right), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, takes part in a briefing in New Delhi on June 5, along with his Indian counterpart, Adm. Arun Prakash (center). The visit to India is Pace's first as chairman. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"We want to explore possibilities that allow us to have a more robust capability to work together," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference at U.S. Ambassador David Mulford's official residence.
"This is a golden opportunity for both India and the United States, as very prosperous, vibrant democracies, to partner in a way that brings peace and stability to this very, very important part of the world," the chairman said following visits with India's service chiefs and its defense minister and national security adviser.
The two countries' capabilities, when considered together, would provide a likely deterrent to potential enemies and help maintain peace in the region, he said.
Pace told reporters he came to India to "listen and learn" and to find ways to build on what he called "a natural partnership" in a way that will benefit both countries into the future.
The chairman paid individual office calls on Adm. "Arun" Prakash, India's Naval Staff chief and chairman of its Chiefs of Staff Committee; Gen. J.J. Singh, Army Staff chief; and Air Marshal Ajit Bhavnani, Air Staff vice chief of staff. He also visited Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, whom he met with two days earlier in Singapore during a bilateral session that included Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and India's national security adviser, M.K. Narayan.
The leaders exchanged information about security challenges their countries face and expressed hopes of working closer together to confront them. They hope to achieve that through more joint military exercises, military training, defense trade and technological cooperation, and other means.
Pace noted the solid advances the two counties have already made through combined navy, army and air exercises. The United States has invited India's air force to participate in the Red Flag exercise, either as an observer next year or a participant in 2008. Since 1975, Red Flag has offered an environment for U.S. and allied air forces to train together as they would fight in combat.
In addition, the U.S. and Indian navies recently conducted impromptu training exercises when aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy recently passed through the region, Pace noted.
Training opportunities like these "allow us to have a more robust capacity to work together in things like tsunami relief (and) other humanitarian exercises and to be able to take care of pop-up problems that people cannot forecast," the chairman said. They also ensure a faster, more efficient and more effective response, he said.
"So ... both our military and your military will work together to come up with proposals, and our governments will determine which of those proposals are the best ones for us to pursue," he said.
During today's news conference, a reporter asked why the U.S. had decided to supply arms to Pakistan. India and Pakistan have a somewhat contentious relationship, fueled by a dispute over the Kashmir region.
Pace responded by calling Pakistan "a very good partner" in the war on terrorism and said the United States owes it a big debt. "We could not have done what we did in Afghanistan without the support of the Pakistan government," he said.
But the chairman dismissed the notion that assisting Pakistan would be destabilizing to the region - just as he said India's plans to test an intercontinental ballistic missile would not be destabilizing. "It is stabilizing to have countries that know that they have sufficient defense, and who have the intent to use it for only defense," he said.
Similarly, Pace said strengthening of Indo-U.S. ties will have a stabilizing effect on the region. It "will reinforce to our friends that we are capable of defending ourselves and our friends, and reinforce to any potential enemy that ... together as partners, (we) are going to protect our citizens against harm," he said.
During today's visit, Pace laid a wreath at India's eternal flame memorial for fallen soldiers at the city's India Gate and inspected an honor guard at the defense ministry. He is also slated to visit the headquarters of India's Training Command at Shimla.