‘Relationship with India growing stronger`

Last Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 11:51

Washington: Noting that the United States
has a special focus area on its relationship with India, a top
Pentagon commander has said that the Indo-US ties are growing
stronger and stronger.

"Our relationship is now strong and growing stronger,"
Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Robert Willard
told reporters in Honolulu, Hawaii, which is hosting the APEC
Summit.

Hawaii is the headquarters of the Pacific Command, whose
jurisdiction starts from India and stretches to entire Asia
Pacific region.

"We engage with the Indian armed forces across all the
services, and we contribute to issues such as piracy in the
Gulf of Aden and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean region, and
broader maritime security throughout the region. And we look
forward to continuing to advance our Indian partnership along
the way," Willard said.

"We have a special focus area on our relationship with
India - a strategic partnership that continues to grow, both
government-to-government and military-to-military. India is
the largest democracy in South Asia. It`s the most
consequential military in the region," he said.

"And it operates in a fairly challenging neighbourhood.
Our relationship with India is not very old. We were not
particularly close during the Cold War, and when we did begin
to reengage, those relationships were interrupted following
nuclear tests in the last 1990s," he said.

"From a military standpoint, we`ve been engaged with
India for only about seven or eight years. And that`s not very
long when you consider that this is the largest democracy in
the world and a very large military," Willard said.

In South Asia, around India, the Pacific Command, he
said, endeavor to contain Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-based
extremist group that threatens India, attacked Mumbai.

"We find ourselves working with partners in Nepal,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Maldives to build their capacities
to deal with this organization independently," Willard said.

"We`ll continue to deal with violent extremism and other
transnational challenges. And we`ll continue to build our
partnerships with India and with our allies and partners
overtime," he said.

Responding to questions, Willard said that in the Indian
Ocean, Pacific Command is teaming up with India to address the
issue of piracy.

"In the Indian Ocean region, due to the challenges that
we have with the Horn of Africa and Somalia, the Somali
pirates have driven merchant traffic hundreds of miles into
the Indian Ocean. So this is a good illustration, given our
earlier conversation, on how any disruption to the sea lines
of communication can be costly," he said.

"If you can imagine now that merchant ships emanating
from the Gulf of Aden are swinging so far to the east that
they are entering Pacific Command area of responsibility, in
and around India’s exclusive economic zone, in the Sri Lankan
economic exclusion zone, and that of the Maldives," he said.

"So we`re teaming now with India and those nations to
attempt to contain the piracy that is remerging in the
Pacific Command AOR, due to the effects of the Somali pirate
challenge that were faced with there," Willard said.

PTI



First Published: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 11:49

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