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'AfPak is one of extensive common interests of US,India ties'

world Updated: Mar 26, 2010 09:19 IST

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Noting that the influence of India at global stage attest to its pivotal role in shaping the regional security environment, a top US military official has said Washington must ensure that the US-India relationship remains rooted in their extensive common interests.

"Our nation's partnership with India is especially important to long term South and Central Asia regional security and to US national interests in this vital sub-region.

"India's leadership as the largest democracy, its rising economic power, and its influence across South Asia as well as its global influence attest to its pivotal role in shaping the regional security environment," Admiral Robert F Willard, Commander US Pacific Command, said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

We must continue to strengthen this relationship and, while our near-term challenges in Central Command are of great strategic importance, we must ensure the US-India relationship remains rooted in our extensive common interests of which the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue is only one, he said.

I think that the India-US relationship right now is stronger than I've ever enjoyed. As you know, because of our history, we've only been truly engaging with India mil-to-mil for about the last half a dozen years; and yet it's been pretty profound how far that's come, Willard said.

We are engaged with India now with regard to their counterterrorism challenges, particularly as it relates to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group that emanates from Pakistan and attacked into Mumbai, and what we believe to be their presence in areas surrounding India, he said in response to a question.

Later in his interaction with foreign journalists at the Washington Foreign Press Centre, Willard said Pacific Command is now focused in and around India, specifically with regard to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"Our relationship with India, a strategic partner and like-minded democracy, of great importance in south Asia," he said.

Earlier in his testimony, Willard said the US' relationship has grown significantly over the past five years as both countries work to overcome apprehensions formed during Cold War era, particularly with respect to defence cooperation.