The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Out of spotlight, militaries build bridges

New Delhi, March 3: Indian participation in military operations alongside the US is back on the agenda in New Delhi in the wake of George W. Bush’s visit.

Combined military operations involving the two navies have been envisaged.

The visit has been dominated by the civilian nuclear deal but it is in the military sphere ' where ties have been deepening with more than 30 joint exercises since 2002 ' that policy shifts are most apparent. The two sides have now committed to a “Indo-US Framework for Maritime Security Cooperation”.

The navies/Coast Guard will now act jointly for:

• Prevention of, and response to, acts of transnational crime at sea such as piracy, armed robbery at sea, smuggling and trafficking in arms and drugs

• Search and rescue operations

• Exchange of information and facilitation of technical assistance on combating marine pollution

• Increase cooperation through defence trade and an agreement on logistics support.

A factsheet issued by the US embassy here today said the US and India “are building the foundation of a durable defence relationship”. Apart from maritime security cooperation, they are “expanding the scope” of counter-terrorism cooperation, including work on bio-terrorism and cyber-security.

The two countries are also preparing to conclude an agreement on mutual logistics support during combined training, exercises and disaster relief operations. It is this last point that had led to a row after the Left suspected that India was preparing to allow the US military to use India’s naval assets.

The proposal was first made in December 2001 by the visiting US Pacific Command chief, Admiral Dennis C. Blair. It was put up to the cabinet committee on security but was kept in abeyance.

It has now been revived and the “principle of reciprocity” is being applied to the agreement in the making.

Both the US and Indian navies may be able to use each others’ assets to secure sea lanes from the Straits of Malacca to the Persian Gulf after the conclusion of the logistics support agreement.

Under the framework for maritime security cooperation, both sides have also committed to hold regular maritime security policy and implementation discussions in the Defence Policy Group, Naval Executive Steering Group and Military Cooperation Group. They “reaffirmed their commitment” to support existing multilateral efforts to enhance maritime security, including those of the International Maritime Organisation and the UN.

India refused to send troops to Iraq in aid of the US in 2003 after a Parliament resolution against the war. New Delhi also said the only international military operations it was committed to were under the UN flag.

That position changed after defence minister Pranab Mukherjee signed the New Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship on June 28, 2005. He told Parliament that India would participate in multinational operations “when it is in the common interest”.

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