US, Indian Defense Chiefs Hold ‘Productive’ Talks

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 4:10 am (UTC-5)
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The Pentagon says U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a “productive meeting” with his Indian counterpart, ahead of a policy speech on U.S.-India defense ties.

Before the talks Wednesday in New Delhi, the Pentagon said Panetta and Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony would discuss strengthening military cooperation between the two countries. The U.S. defense chief also took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at an Indian war memorial and was welcomed by an honor guard.

Panetta is closing a two-day trip during which he discussed regional security issues with Indian officials. U.S. defense spokesman Captain John Kirby, speaking about the talks, said security in Afghanistan is closely tied to U.S. relations with Pakistan and other countries in the region, and that India is meeting its responsibilities.

“I think he expressed gratitude for what they have done and his fervent hope that they'll continue to stay involved in the region and in particular helping Afghanistan as it moves forward.”

India has provided $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, and last October the two countries signed a strategic agreement pledging deeper security and economic ties. India is already helping Afghan security forces prepare for the withdrawal of international troops, set to be completed by the end of 2014.

Michael McKinley, a senior lecturer in international relations and strategy at Australian National University, told VOA that many of the countries around Afghanistan want a say in its future, which he said “has been a problem for Afghanistan ever since it existed.”

“I think that India's role is best undertaken quietly and in a very transparent fashion, and anything which then suggests that India is attempting to get some sort of leverage, or additional leverage, over Pakistan is not going to help matters. I don't believe it's going to help perhaps even with some of the other parties on the fringes of Afghanistan either.”

On Tuesday, Secretary Panetta met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. Officials say that during the meeting, India agreed to allow the United States to resume efforts to recover the remains of missing American service members lost in India during World War II.

The Pentagon estimates there are about 400 missing troops from some 90 aircraft crashes in India's northeast.