The high-voltage, new-found relationship between India and the United States will receive yet another boost with the visit later this month of General Henry H Shelton, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The US commander's visit on May 31 will mark the formal resumption of military ties between the two countries and the renewed interest of the US in Asia, pronounced in the proposed American defence
review which seeks to shift American focus from Europe to Asia and the Pacific.
Formal military relations between India and United States were suspended in the wake of Pokhran nuclear tests in May, 1998.
Marking the visit's significance, the Indian armed forces would be presenting General Shelton with a tri-service guard of honour, a rare military event.
Though there are no specific details, General Shelton's meetings in New Delhi are expected to take military relations between the two countries to a new high.
General Shelton became the 14th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 1, 1997 and was reconfirmed for a second term in 1999. His tenure ends in October.
As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton is the operational head of the American forces, which are integrated into theatre commands around the globe.
Senior defence ministry officials point out that General Shelton's visit reasserts the renewed US interest in India and its new defence strategy.
A senior defence official said the tri-service guard of honour for General Shelton signifies the "importance and the significance of the visit".
"In the recent times such an important military official has not visited
India," he said.
During his visit, General Shelton would be calling on Defence Minister
Jaswant Singh and the three service chiefs -- Navy chief Admiral Sushil
Kumar, Army chief General S Padmanabhan and Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis.
According to reliable sources, no specific agenda has been set for General Shelton's visit.
Military relations between the two countries were on an upswing when the Pokhran tests took place in May 1998 , bringing in US sanctions and snapping military relations.
Prior to that, all the three services had separate expert groups headed by the vice-chiefs of the respective services and their counterparts in the Pacific Command of US. The expert groups met every year, alternatively at New Delhi and Honolulu.
The last meeting of the experts groups was in 1997. The groups had been discussing various means of improving military relations.
However, in 1999 then Army chief General V P Malik had been to America on an "informal visit". During his visit, General Malik had lunched with General Shelton at his office.
In 2000, the commander in chief of Pacific Command had visited India, but that did not lead to the resumption of military ties and lifting of sanctions.
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