Indo-US defence talks begin

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, June 1:

India and the US today began a three-day strategic dialogue, the first such interaction between the two countries after the new government assumed office here. The holding of the meeting of what is known as the India-US Defence Policy Group (DPG) marks continuation of an exercise initiated during the previous administration. The new government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said it would seek to “strengthen, widen and deepen” relations with the US. An Indian defence ministry spokesman said the DPG would discuss the entire gamut of bilateral defence ties, including strategic issues, joint exercises, training and acquisition.

“The talks will also review counter-terrorism requirements of India, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, security of sea-lanes in the Indian Ocean and peace and stability in Asia,” he added. The Indian delegation to the DPG meeting, being held at the defence ministry, is led by Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad while his counterpart, United States Under Secretary of Defence Douglas Feith, is heading the American team. Defence ministry sources indicated the acquisition of defence hardware, including P3-C Orion long-range reconnaissance aircraft for the Indian Navy, was expected to figure in the talks. “The talks are still ongoing and the situation is fluid. But the acquisition of the Orions is expected to figure in the talks,” said a defence source. Upcoming exercises, including one in which India’s armed forces will travel to Alaska to train with American special forces and other multilateral exercises to be held in Singapore later this year, will also be discussed, the sources said.