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December 3, 2001
1444 IST

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Indo-US defence policy group meeting underway

Josy Joseph in New Delhi

The Indo-US Defence Policy Group began its meeting in South Block on Monday to formulate a long-term policy framework for an unprecedented defence cooperation between the two countries.

DPG is the joint group chaired by Indian defence secretary and his counterpart in Pentagon that provides direct contact between defence departments of both the countries.

DPG formulates long term policies on defence cooperation between the two countries.

According to indications available, the DPG is expected to agree that the three executive steering committees, headed by vice/deputy chiefs of Indian armed forces and their counterparts in Pacific Command, meet sometime in February next year to finalise the details of the cooperation.

The meeting on December 3 and 4 is being co-chaired by Indian Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain and US Under Secretary Douglas Feith.

"The two sides would be discussing defence policy and try to formulate a long term defence cooperation keeping in mind the South Asian security scenario and long term interests," a defence ministry spokesman told rediff.com.

The two-day meeting will discuss a framework for defence cooperation between the two countries.

Among the issues that they are expected to discuss are joint exercises between the defence forces, enhanced training for each other's officers in the two countries, sharing of intelligence, military purchases from US, and issues related to dual use technology.

Among the most significant offers made by the US recently is its readiness to assist India in checking infiltration along the Line of Control and other borders.

During the visit of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, US administration told India that it was ready to provide appropriate sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and other technological assistance to India.

A senior Indian diplomat, who was part of the Vajpayee's entourage confirmed to rediff.com, "We have made some initial contact on surveillance and border management. How it will proceed would be decided by DPG and other meetings in the coming days."

He said, the DPG would be discussing defence cooperation between India and US in the context of 'long term Asian security scenario and beyond', officials said.

The three executive steering groups would meet in February to finalise most of the decisions.

"Robust Indo-US defence relationship would play a crucial part in contributing to peace, security and freedom in Asia," Admiral Dennis C Blair, Commander in Chief, US Pacific Command told a meeting in New Delhi this week.

Admiral Blair had said that the US was seeking to work closely with India's military services on multilateral security issues that would include areas such as the protection of energy supplies and sea-lanes, peacekeeping and preparations for crisis.

He suggested cooperation could cover 'individual and unit visits, officer and unit exchanges, multilateral and bilateral training exercises for the preparation of future common missions and increased technological sales and cooperation'.

The DPG meeting is happening for the first time since May 1998 when India tested nuclear devices.

The first contact with Pentagon after 1998 tests was made when Defence Minister Jaswant Singh visited Pentagon in April this year. Again, he visited Pentagon on October 1.

In exchange US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield visited New Delhi.

The DPG is also discussing the possibility of signing the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which paves way for an advanced sharing of military information.

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