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US allays fears on test firing of Agni-III by India

US will not view as "destabilising" if India goes ahead with the test firing of the intermediate ballistic missile Agni-III.

india Updated: Jun 05, 2006 22:39 IST

The United States on Monday sought to allay fears that any test firing by India of its longest range 3,000 kms ballistic missile Agni-III would be a destabilising factor in the region and said it was not aware of any request for Indian troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

US will not view as "destabilising" if India goes ahead with the test firing of the intermediate ballistic missile Agni-III, the top most ranking US military officer, General Peter Pace said in New Delhi.

"Many countries in this region have tested missiles and as long as the weapons being tested are of defensive capability. We do not not view it as destabilising factor," said Paceb, the visiting US Joint Chief of Staff, in reply to questions after a flurry of meetings with the Indian defence leadership, including the Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The General's comments assume significance as according to reports Indian Defence scientists have said they are ready to test fire the solid fuel missile, if given the political nod.

India as a sovereign state has the right to decide what weapons to test and when, he said in his first ever visit to India. He used the same argument to defend resumption of US arms aid to Pakistan.

"If countries feel more relaxed about perceived threats through assurance of their defence capabilities, it will lead to increase in stability in the region", Pace said.

Saying that developments in Afghanistan had figured prominently in his talks with Indian Military leadership, Pace said he was not aware of any reports of any request for India to send its troops to Afghanistan" nor of any such offer being made by India".

Declaring that Washington was keen to step up the pace of Military to Military interaction with India, Pace said the ways to do it had dominated his discussions with the Chairman Chiefs of Staff committee Admiral Arun Prakash and Army Chief Gen JJ Singh.

He said for the first time India had been invited to participate in the world's most prestigious and tough air combat exercises "Red Flag" to be held in Mexico next year.

He also said that the US had conveyed to India its interest in turning bilateral naval exercises to multilateral exercises.

Saying that US viewed the terrorism menace to continue for the next decade, Pace said Washington viewed New Delhi as a reliable ally in the fight to combat the threat.

"We already have in place information and intelligence sharing on terrorism threat perceptions and want this cooperation to extend further," he said.

Pace's visit here also assumes significance in the context of Indian air force and Navy considering multi million dollar deals to acquire new weapons systems and platforms.

The two countries signed a ten year agreement recently for exploring means to step up joint weapons production.