Seeing missile attacks as a common threat, US-led NATO military alliance has offered India [ Images ] cooperation and sharing of technology in the field of missile defence.
During a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, its top officials briefed PTI on its missile shield programme to defend Europe from a possible missile attack by Iran or Syria.
"You have a missile threat that confronts you. We have a missile threat that confronts us. It's a different one, but our ability to defend against it could be the same. We have cooperation on those kind of issues," said a top NATO official.
He added that NATO and India need to have the kind of dialogue that the US and India are already having as bilateral partners.
"Democracies face challenges that are common. We need to work together and resolve. We need to cooperate, because individually we cannot deal with such threats. It is better to deal with such issues commonly than deal with them individually," he said.
Talking about the commonalities between India and NATO on the missile defence project, the NATO official said, "One would be in the technology of defence".
He added, "even though the threats of missiles come from different directions, we don't necessarily see the threat that you see, because your strategic situation is different from ours. But, the technology of discovering and intercepting missiles is similar".
Another top US official at NATO, however, said that the area of missile defence was also of interest to the Indo-US partnership and "could be more US-Indian relationship, than a NATO-Indian. But we are getting into ballistic missiles defence systems in a pretty big way".
He said, "as a result, we have knowledge which you can share and we can train together. Even though the threat is different the nature of the response can be similar".
What that involves ultimately will depend on India, the official said, adding that "there are experiences that we could talk about and share them".
The US by itself has been suggesting a partnership for India in its national missile defence programe. It has also offered the Patriot missile defence system to India.
While India has accepted briefings on the US-missile defence programme, it has so far been charting an independent course. India's DRDO is indigenously developing a two-tier missile defence system to intercept enemy ballistic missiles, which is scheduled to become operational by 2015.
While India has not publicly identified or talked about the source of the missile threats to it, its programme is very clearly aimed at blunting the missile threats from Pakistan and China.
NATO is also taking steps to address Russian anxieties about Europe's missile shield. The four-phase NATO missile defence programme initiated by Europe in May 2001, aims to work with the 28 member nations to jointly create a defence system over Europe from possible missile threats.
NATO officials said the first phase of the missile shield programme is already in place and the second one will be shortly. While the third phase would be in place by 2015, the fourth one would be in by 2020. "We have already signed an Agreement with Romania for having radar and line-based interceptors in place," said officials.
NATO officials said Russia [ Images ] has misgivings about the 3rd and 4th phase of this programme, which it believes could blunt its ballistic missile capabilities.
"While we see a missile threat coming from Iran in South-East Europe... NATO is not planning any larger European ground war as in the Cold war," said officials, adding that "Russia is sometimes building its military capabilities with NATO in mind, but NATO is not doing so in reverse".
Officials added that Russia also has concerns over military exercises in erstwhile Soviet Union nations, which are independent nations now.
NATO is already working out with Russia to remove these misgivings and has formed the NATO-Russia Council, which meets every month and briefs Russia about the missile defence programme for Europe.NATO officials said missile defence programme could also become the key partnership of cooperation between India and NATO.