Defence ties to expand regardless of N-deal: US

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Feb 26 | Updated: Feb 27 2008, 03:53am hrs
US defence secretary Robert Gates, who began his two-day visit to New Delhi on Tuesday, has said he is hopeful that India-US defence ties would develop independent of the nuclear initiative between the two countries.

We are certainly hopeful that India can get done what it needs to do, so that we can do what we need to do and get the civil nuclear agreement completed, Gates said.

The civil nuclear initiative is a very good deal for both India and the US, he underlined.

Stressing that the US was committed to expanding military-to-military and defence trade with India regardless of the outcome of the nuclear deal, he said, I am here independent of the civil nuclear deal. I am here to explore how we can expand military-to-military relations between the countries.

India is the worlds largest democracy. It is in Indias interest to develop this relationship as much as it is in USs interest, he said.

Referring to the joint exercise between Indian Navy and the US in the Bay of Bengal, along with Japan, Australia and Singapore, Gates said, We have an ambitious agenda of military-to-military exercises and interactions that are increasing in size and sophistication.

I am impressed that India-US defence relations have grown since the defence framework agreement was signed in 2005, he said. We now have a broad range of interactions. I am looking at ways to expand this relationship, he added.