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Military ties enhanced Indo-US friendship: ex-US Admiral

September 07, 2007 10:16 IST

Retired Admiral Walter Doran, a former Admiral with the US Navy, who served first as the Commander of the Seventh Fleet and then of the Pacific Fleet from May 2002 to July 2005, said he was elated to address a conference on US-India relations at a time when the strategic partnership between the countries was manifesting itself in several tangible ways.

Moran, one of the keynoters at the invitation-only luncheon and conference on a possible US-India Security Alliance hosted by the Indian American Security Leadership Council on Capitol Hill held on September 5, said, "I am happy to be here on this day as we celebrate and examine the relationship between India and the United States -- on a day when the ex-USS Trenton is arriving in Mumbai, the first US naval ship to be transferred to India and becoming the second largest ship in India's navy -- and on a day when five navies are exercising in the Bay of Bengal and in the Indian Ocean."

 "That is a tremendous message for the world, for the neighborhood to see these democracies working together as naval forces," he said.

Doran, a 38-year veteran of the US Navy, and an alumnus of the Indian Defense Staff Services College in Wellington, which he attended in 1978, said, "India has been personally very important and very close to me and my family, but also it's important that in realising where we are today that we not take this for granted and we do not assume that the end game has been played."

'The relationship between India and the United States has always been one that seemed obvious -- that seemed like a no-brainer and seemed like it's something that should have happened a generation ago. But it didn't and we are only watching it come to fruition now."

Doran, now president of the Asia Division of Raytheon International, Inc, spoke to the importance of "personal and habitual relationships," where "people know each other and trust each other and therefore can very quickly get over some of the speed bumps that exist," and recalled that in Wellington, "while I was there, my classmates included Lieutenant Commander Arun Prakash and Leituenant Commander Sureesh Mehta."

"As time went on and we both (he and Prakash) were promoted and went on with our careers, when I was the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Arun was the chief of navy staff in Delhi and Sureesh Mehta is now the chief of navy staff."

It was when Doran and Prakash headed the Malabar naval exercises, that the first time such cooperation between India and the US took place after the interruption sparked by India's nuclear tests in Pokhran in May 1998.

Doran argued that it was the military-to-military relationship that "in many ways has been the leader in helping the US-India relationship to finally come to pass."

"It has been a way for us to stay close and it has shown the way with the permission of the governments on both sides because you are talking about two democracies where you have civilian control of the military so that the military does not just decide on its own that they are going to develop a relationship."

Doran said that "we find ourselves today where these exercises started very small," to where they were now "relatively robust and they reflect the relationship that has developed and matured between our two nations."

But he couldn't help but keep going back to cautioning that "we need to maintain it and to nurture it and to realise that this is still relatively fragile and we have to put the time into it to make sure that we can continue on from here."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC