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Relationship with India growing stronger: US Commander

November 14, 2011 11:57 IST

Noting that the United States has a special focus area on its relationship with India, a top Pentagon commander has said that the Indo-US ties are growing stronger and stronger.

"Our relationship is now strong and growing stronger," Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Robert Willard told media persons in Honolulu, Hawaii, which is hosting the APEC Summit.

Hawaii is the headquarters of the Pacific Command, whose jurisdiction starts from India and stretches to entire Asia Pacific region.

"We engage with the Indian armed forces across all the services, and we contribute to issues such as piracy in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean region, and broader maritime security throughout the region. And we look forward to continuing to advance our Indian partnership along the way," Willard said.

"We have a special focus area on our relationship with India -- a strategic partnership that continues to grow, both government-to-government and military-to-military. India is the largest democracy in South Asia. It's the most consequential military in the region," he said.

"And it operates in a fairly challenging neighbourhood. Our relationship with India is not very old. We were not particularly close during the Cold War, and when we did begin to reengage, those relationships were interrupted following nuclear tests in the last 1990s," he said.

"From a military standpoint, we've been engaged with India for only about seven or eight years. And that's not very long when you consider that this is the largest democracy in the world and a very large military," Willard said.

In South Asia, around India, the Pacific Command, he said, endeavour to contain Lashkar-e-Tayiba, a Pakistani-based extremist group that threatens India, attacked Mumbai.

"We find ourselves working with partners in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Maldives to build their capacities to deal with this organization independently," Willard said.

"We'll continue to deal with violent extremism and other transnational challenges. And we'll continue to build our partnerships with India and with our allies and partners overtime," he said.

Responding to questions, Willard said that in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Command is teaming up with India to address the issue of piracy.

"In the Indian Ocean region, due to the challenges that we have with the Horn of Africa and Somalia, the Somali pirates have driven merchant traffic hundreds of miles into the Indian Ocean. So this is a good illustration, given our earlier conversation, on how any disruption to the sea lines of communication can be costly," he said.

"If you can imagine now that merchant ships emanating from the Gulf of Aden are swinging so far to the east that they are entering Pacific Command area of responsibility, in and around India's exclusive economic zone, in the Sri Lankan economic exclusion zone, and that of the Maldives," he said.

"So we're teaming now with India and those nations to attempt to contain the piracy that is re-emerging in the Pacific Command AOR, due to the effects of the Somali pirate challenge that we're faced with there," Willard said.
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