Its A Departure!...From History... As Service Chiefs Dine With Blackwill

New Delhi, July 30: | Updated: Jul 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
It was charming and a unique star studded evening for outgoing US ambassador Robert Blackwill as he got together with the three service chiefs and vice chiefs along with their spouses for a farewell dinner at the Roosevelt House recently. This was for the first time that an ambassador hosted the military brass.

According to highly placed sources, one chief even changed his operational programme to attend the party. Sources said that Mr Ashley Tellis, the advisor to Mr Blackwill got the clearance for the twelve star (chiefs) and nine star (vice chiefs) guests from the ministry of external affairs. In this house, there has never been an august gathering like this before. In fact, it is always difficult to even get eight stars at a party at any time, said an insider.

Sources interpreted this as a signal of strong military relations between the two countries. The Indo-US defence ties underwent great changes during Ambassador Robert Blackwills two year tenure, with joint training, exercises and high-level visits becoming a commonplace.

To build on this, he suggested military sales from the US to India should increase in order to bolster bilateral defence ties and boost inter-operability between the US forces and those of India.

Because of him, India is now in the same category as allies such as South Korea and Japan, which meant that Washington was free to export hardware of up to $14 million to New Delhi without Congressional approval. During his tenure, India recently leased several weapon locating radars, including those contracted for purchase last year. Representatives from the Indian and US armies were examining Indias request for special forces equipment and chemical and biological protection gear.

In the past, defence relations with the US were strained due to sanctions after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. They were lifted after India joined the US-led coalition against terrorism following 9/11 attacks.