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American Forces Press Service

Gates Presses for U.S.-Indian Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

NEW DELHI, Jan. 19, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today emphasized the opportunity and the need for closer defense cooperation between the United States and India in a broad range of areas, including the maritime, cyberspace and space domains.

Gates kicked off his two-day visit to India today by meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, discussing the two nations’ shared values, interests and challenges, senior defense officials told reporters following the sessions.

The secretary is expected to reinforce that message — and the U.S. wish to broaden its strategic partnership with India — when he meets tomorrow with Defense Minister A.K. Antony.

Today’s sessions covered a broad range of issues, but focused heavily on the violent extremism that threatens both countries and their need to continue collaborative efforts to confront it.

A senior official who attended today’s talks said Gates also addressed the need to overcome roadblocks that stand in the way of two critical tools supporting counter-extremism efforts: more technology sharing and an increased flow of information and expertise.

“We want to enhance and strengthen our sharing of technology with India,” the official said. “We want to be able to share more information with India … and develop cooperative programs, particularly in the maritime, cyberspace and space area.”

The need to secure these realms, the so-called “global commons,” is among the 21st-century challenges that “can only be solved by many nations working together in concert,” Gates wrote in an article published in today’s Times of India.

Yet the secretary has long been frustrated that U.S. law limits just how much technology and information the United States can share with trusted partners such as India to support these efforts.

During today’s sessions, Gates also pressed for continued discussion on yet-to-be-finalized agreements between the two countries that will promote geospatial data-sharing, communications interoperability and security and logistical support.

“Not getting these agreements signed is an obstacle to Indian access to the very highest level of technology,” he told reporters during the flight here.

Gates lauded in his article the way India has stepped up in the maritime domain, where it is working alongside the multinational naval task force, conducting counter-piracy missions.

In addition to counter-piracy, today’s talks also focused on increasing “maritime domain awareness,” which the defense official described as “knowing what is moving around out there.”

The terror attacks that rocked Mumbai in November 2008 and left 173 people dead drove home the tragic consequences of gaps within this capability. Investigations revealed that the attackers entered Mumbai by hijacking a fishing trawler, killing its crew, then going ashore in a rubber dinghy.

“The attack on Mumbai came from the sea, so there is a definite need to track the movement of people who want to do harm to us out there,” a senior defense official told reporters.

During the flight here, Gates praised India’s restraint toward Pakistan following the attacks.

"The bombing in Mumbai was a really terrible event, and frankly, I believe that the Indians responded subsequently with a great deal of restraint and have conducted themselves in a very statesmanlike manner since that attack," he told reporters flying with him.

"Obviously, we would hope that there wouldn't be any more attacks,” he said. “But I think that even within the framework of that attack and the suspicions that it created, the two sides have managed to keep the tensions between them at a manageable level.”

Gates summed up today’s sessions as “very productive” and said he looks forward to another round of positive meetings tomorrow at the defense ministry, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell reported.

“Thus far, the visit is off to a very strong start,” he said.

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