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UK CDS' India visit to boost bilateral ties

High on Chief of Defence Staff's agenda are talks on bilateral exchanges in the field of defence.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:27 IST
UK Bureau

General Sir Michael Walker GCB CMG CBE ADC Gen, the British Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), will be visiting India on September 23-26, 2003. The visit will be among General Walker's first overseas visits since taking over as the CDS in May 2003.

While in India, he is slated to meet Defence Minister George Fernandes, the Chiefs of Staff and other senior officials. He will also visit a number of headquarters and units in Jammu and Kashmir, Agra and Gwalior.

High on the agenda are talks on bilateral exchanges, training courses between defence personnel and cooperation on defence equipment. General Walker will be discussing the full range of ongoing bilateral defence initiatives with the Indian Service Chiefs.

Three Royal Navy ships have visited India so far this year to maintain professional contact between the two navies, and a fourth (HMS Kent) is due to visit Mumbai in November 2003 for a short exercise. A joint deployment command post exercise is also planned for spring 2004 in India, following Indian attendance at a joint operation planning course in the UK in August this year.

Existing annual bilateral exchanges of cadets and students at defence colleges and staff colleges will continue. Further exchange initiatives are planned to include exercise observers, exercise controllers, mountain and jungle warfare specialists and training instructors.

At least 10 UK officers and soldiers are also expected to visit India to attend courses in 2003/04, with some 30 Indian personnel undertaking training in the UK. In addition, the UK also plans to run courses in India (or neighbouring countries, with Indian participation) on the planning of joint operations, peacekeeping, defence management, maritime history and disaster management.

Talks on bilateral defence equipment matters will focus on the Indian Government's recent announcement that it intends to purchase BAE Systems' Hawk to meet the Indian Air Force requirement for an Advanced Jet Trainer.

General Walker's visit is the latest in a series of high-level British military visits to India.

His visit will be followed by those of the Chief of the Naval Staff later this year and the Chief of the General Staff in 2004.

The General will be accompanied by Lady Walker, whose grandfather served in the British Indian Army (Skinner's Horse).

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST