‘US, India working together to curb Pak-based LeT’

Admiral Robert Willard, a top Pentagon official said India and US are pursuing a strategic partnership.

Washington: The US and India are working
together on containing Pakistan-based LeT that over the years
has evolved as a dangerous terrorist outfit and now aspires to
hit America, a top Pentagon commander told lawmakers here
on Tuesday.

Testifying before the powerful Senate Armed Services
Committee, Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the US Pacific
Command (USPACOM), said the two countries are pursuing a
strategic partnership and a steady progress have been made in
their military to military cooperation over the past decade.

"Pursuing a US-India strategic partnership through a
close alignment of respective regional security interests is a
priority for the US Department of Defense and USPACOM," he

In 2011, he said Pacific Command`s Indian Engagement
Initiative that resourced and hosted Mumbai counter terrorist
specialists for training, exercises, and exchanges throughout
the US, together with capacity-building activities with South
Asian partners are mainly focused on containing LeT and
contributing to CT self-sufficiency of the sub-region`s

"Our security relationship involves strategic to
tactical-level dialogues, increasingly robust military
exercises, security assistance, and personnel exchanges. The
US and India have made steady progress in military-to-military
cooperation over the past decade," Willard said.

Willard said while several violent extremist
organizations (VEOs) conduct facilitation, recruitment and
seek safe havens throughout South Asia, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)
presents a particularly acute problem.

"Responsible for many attacks in India, including the
horrific attacks into Mumbai, LeT is headquartered in
Pakistan, affiliated with Al Qaeda and other VEOs, and
contributes to terrorist operations in Afghanistan and aspires
to operate against Asia, Europe and North America," Willard
said. Willard said it is important that the leadership and
staffs of USPACOM and United States Central Command continue
to coordinate our respective military activities in this
sub-region, especially as they concern India and Pakistan.

The top commander of USPACOM said South Asia as a whole
is of major strategic importance to the US. Anchored by India
and containing major sea line of communication for the
transport of energy and other commerce to Asia and the
Americas from the Middle East and Europe, South Asia security
partnerships are increasingly vital to USPACOM’s mission.

"South Asia is home to a confluence of challenges,
including nuclear armed rivals India and Pakistan, numerous
transnational VEOs such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), piracy,
trafficking in narcotics and persons, disputed borders, and
insurgent movements that have plagued India, Nepal, and Sri
Lanka," he said.

USPACOM engages throughout South Asia, assisting its
militaries to counter and contain VEOs such as LeT,
cooperating in maritime security activities such as counter
piracy, conducting disaster response planning and training,
and exercising extensively, service to service, he said.

Bangladesh, he said, has emerged as a particularly
effective partner in the fight against terror, cooperating
with India as well as the US to counter VEO activity by actors
such as LeT.

Further, Bangladesh`s military is advancing its
capabilities and contributes broadly to UN peacekeeping
operations, he added.

Due to its proximity to major commercial sea lanes, the
Maldives is concerned with piracy and other illicit activity
in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), he said.

"For that reason, it is striving to advance its maritime
security capabilities by reshaping its coast guard, marine and
special operations forces. Further, curbing recruitment of its
youth into VEOs and narcotics trafficking and addiction are
Maldives - areas of focus," the Admiral said.

Sri Lanka, Willard said, is focused on developing its
maritime security capabilities while preventing a resurgence
of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam.

Sri Lanka`s military forces continue to assist in
de-mining and other recovery operations following 25 years of
civil war.

USPACOM’s engagement with Sri Lanka will continue to be
limited, until the Government of Sri Lanka demonstrates
progress in addressing human rights allegations, he said.

"Each of these nations` militaries partner with USPACOM
at varying levels, including leadership exchanges, exercise
series, USPACOM Assist Team CT capacity building actions and
activities, and security assistance," Willard underlined.