`Robert Gates` visit bolsters Indo-US ties`
Washington: The visit of US Defence
Secretary Robert Gates to New Delhi - the first by a top Obama
administration member after the State Visit of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh here last year - is all set to bolster Indo-US
ties, a leading American expert on South Asia has said.
"Following on the heels of the Indian Prime Minister`s
successful visit to Washington last year, Gates` visit will
sustain the momentum in US-India ties and prepare the way for
a potential visit by President Barack Obama to India this
summer," said Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South
Asia in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation a Washington-based think tank.
"As the Taliban assaulted Kabul, Defence Secretary
Gates made an important visit to India, the South Asian giant
whose partnership is critical to stabilising the region and
checking terrorism trends that jeopardize world security," she
Curtis said Gates will also take the temperature on
India-Pakistan relations more than one year after the
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror attacks in Mumbai.
In a sign that India may be considering seeking a thaw
with Pakistan, the Indian Foreign Minister last week
telephoned his Pakistani counterpart, she noted. However, the
slight opening toward Islamabad`s civilian leadership does not
appear to signal optimism about the Pakistani military`s
willingness to crack down on the LeT, she said.
"Rather, it may demonstrate that New Delhi seeks to
prevent a further deterioration in ties and to avoid appearing
unreasonable at a time when Pakistanis themselves suffer
almost daily terrorist attacks," Curtis said.
New Delhi, she said, still holds that the Pakistani
military could be doing more to crack down on terrorists that
attack India, an assessment shared by many US officials and
that appears to have been borne out by the investigation of
the David Headley case, which has confirmed links between the
Pakistan military and the LeT.
"The opening toward Islamabad also will not preclude
Indian leaders from expressing their disapproval of US
military aid to Pakistan on grounds that the equipment is
aimed at strengthening Pakistan`s ability to counter India,
not terrorists," Curtis said.
Curtis said Gates` three-day visit will seek to
bolster US-India defence trade.
"Russia still provides 80 per cent of India`s military
hardware, but the US is beginning to break into the rapidly
expanding Indian defence market," she said.
"Over the last two years, India has purchased over USD
3 billion in military equipment from the US, including eight
maritime reconnaissance aircraft and six C-130J Super Hercules
transport aircraft. The two countries are moving toward
completing their largest defence transaction yet (about USD
2.5 billion) with India`s potential purchase of ten strategic
airlift aircraft," Curtis said.
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