Panetta Calls for Closer Security Ties with India

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday wrapped up his two-day visit to New Delhi with a call for closer defense ties with India as the new U.S. defense strategy is being developed for the 21st century.

Panetta also said the two sides need to overcome “often deep” differences with Pakistan to ensure peace and prosperity in South Asia. Islamabad is suspicious of New Delhi playing a larger role in the region — especially in reconstructing Afghanistan — but Panetta stressed it is in the interest of both Pakistan and India to stabilize their neighbor.

The U.S. official said Pakistan is a “complicated relationship for both countries, but it is one we must continue to work to improve.”

Panetta on Wednesday met with his Indian counterpart, A.K. Antony and stressed the greater role India can play in promoting regional stability. He also outlined a vision for a deeper strategic relationship between the two countries as the U.S. — in his words — “rebalances towards the Asia-Pacific region,” adding “defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy.”

The two countries also discussed increased defense trade and plans to conduct more joint military maneuvers.

India was Panetta's third stop on his tour of Asia. During his visits to Vietnam and Singapore, he signaled plans to strengthen the U.S. presence in the Pacific Ocean.

Analysts say Panetta's trip was meant to underline India's role as a counterweight to a more powerful China. But the U.S. defense secretary said that the U.S. will seek to strengthen relations with China as well.