US defence secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday pitched for deepening security and defence ties with India while defending America’s drone strikes in Pakistan.
US defense secretary Leon Panetta shakes hands with defence minister AK Antony during a ceremony at the ministry of defence in New Delhi. AFP/Raveendran
Panetta said the US had made it “very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves”. However, he termed US-Pakistan ties a “necessary relationship”.
Terming the defence partnership with India “strategic, practical and collaborative”, US defence secretary Leon Panetta underlined his country’s commitment to a greater role in the region, extending “all the way to the Indian Ocean”.
Washington sees New Delhi as central to its new doctrine of re-balancing in the Asia-Pacific region. Though the Chinese assertion of military power is an important reason for the new doctrine, Panetta said with India and the US deepening their military ties, they also “seek to strengthen” their relations with Beijing.
“We must move beyond a focus on individual arms sales to regular cooperation that increases the quantity and quality of our defence trade,” he said, delivering a lecture on India-US defence ties as part of concluding his eight-day trip to the Asia-Pacific on Wednesday.
The defence secretary wanted India to “modernise regulations in areas like defence procurement and nuclear liability legislation”.
He said both countries should work together to make defence and trade ties simple, responsive and effective. India has imported arms worth $8 billion from the US over the last 10 years.
Panetta also noted India and the US felt China had “a critical role to play advancing security and prosperity in this region”.
“The United States welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous and a successful China that plays a greater role in global affairs — and respects and enforces the international norms that have governed this region for six decades,” he said.
The new strategy, which was announced in January, calls for a shift in US strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific.