New Delhi: India on Wednesday made it clear to the US that it favours multilateral security architecture in the Asia Pacific region against the backdrop of American plans to shift the bulk of their naval fleet to the area to counter China`s growing influence.
During a delegation-level meeting with Defence Minister AK Antony, his US counterpart Leon Panetta also promised to initiate measures to provide access to dual use technology to India which has been contending that American norms were leading to denial of export of such sophisticated items.
During the hour-long discussions, the two sides also reviewed the security situation in South Asia, West Asia and the AfPak region and the security scenario emerging there after the withdrawal of American troops from there in 2014.
"Antony emphasized the need to strengthen multilateral security architecture in the Asia-Pacific and to move at a pace comfortable to all countries concerned," Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said about the meeting.
The stand has been taken by India in the light of US plans to shift bulk of its aircraft carrier fleet to the Asia Pacific and its announcement that New Delhi was key to its plans of rebalancing power in the region.
On the issues related to dispute over the South China Sea involving countries in Asia Pacific, Antony told Panetta that India favoured unhindered freedom of navigation in international waters for all.
"India supports unhindered freedom of navigation in international waters for all," he said.
Beijing claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea area and has disputes with countries such as Philippines and Vietnam over the issue.
On the security concerns in the region, the Defence Minister stressed that "with regard to bilateral issues between countries, it is desirable that parties concerned themselves should settle contentious matters in accordance with the international law."
During the meeting, Panetta gave an assurance to Antony
that the US would initiate measures to provide access to technology, defence ministry officials said.
The denial of dual-use items by the US to various laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was a key issue for discussion between the two sides.
DRDO chief VK Saraswat had recently said that US President Barack Obama`s assurance on removal of DRDO from the entities list and easing exports of dual use items had remained only on paper.
On the ongoing defence trade between the two countries, Antony "emphasized 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," Kar said.
In recent times, India has emerged as a big buyer of American weaponry and procured systems worth over USD eight billion in the last few years.
Several American manufacturers are in the race for the ongoing and future tenders of Indian armed forces worth billions of dollars.
The two sides also discussed the possibility of enhancing their cooperation in terms of military exercises, sources said.
"Both sides took note of the ongoing bilateral cooperation between India and the US in the area of defence and agreed that there were opportunities for enhancing bilateral ties in area of mutual interest and concern," the spokesperson said.
Sources said Panetta did not bring up the contentious Logistics Support Agreement, Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) or the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) during his discussions with Antony.
Terming Pakistan as "complicated relationship" for both India and the US, Panetta said it was one that "we must work to improve."
He said the two sides also exchanged views about key issues like piracy and terrorism, tensions in the South China Sea, US` concerns about Iran and North Korea`s destabilising activities and new challenges like cyber intrusions and warfare.
The Indian delegation included the Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, Secretary (Defence Production) Shekhar Agarwal and DRDO Chief VK Saraswat.