India will remain a very important partner: US Official



India will remain a very important partner: US Official Washington: Stating that Indo-US strategic ties have improved in the last eight years, a top US military leader said Wednesday that India would remain a very important partner of the United States in the region.

"Ties are much stronger there and that relationship has definitely improved in the last eight years," Commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy Keating said here at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"I am convinced that India is and will remain a very important partner of ours in a critical part of the world for all of us," Keating said.

"They have committed to us their desire to increase military-to-military dialogue, quantity and quality of training exercises and to consider personnel exchanges on a more robust, vigorous basis than we currently enjoy," Keating said.

Recollecting his first visit to India in the mid-80s alongwith Admiral William Crowe, Admiral Keating said the discussions he had at that time were not entirely fulfilling or productive.

"The engagement opportunities were almost marginal, and not much came of the visit," he said.

But things are different now, he said. "They are developing a naval capability that's significant."

"They are currently undergoing a fighter fly-off. Many in the room are probably aware of this. The F-18 of the United States just returned. The F-16 is down there," he said.

"We will admit to a little bias. We prefer they buy American. It's a particular platform. You know, just as long as they buy American, that's fine with us. They're buying some P-8s and other United States military equipment, and that is all very encouraging to us," he said.

The US Pacific Command chief said the signature success of the Bush administration's foreign policy in Asia was its rapprochement with India.

Bureau Report