Tuesday 30 August 2016
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Hagel's India Visit Aimed at Nurturing Defense Ties: Pentagon

Lalit K Jha/Washington

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit New Delhi next week during which he will hold talks with his counterpart Arun Jaitley and other top officials, aimed at "nurturing" ties with India after the formation of the new government, a top Pentagon official has said.

"The purpose of this trip is to nurture the relationship and not to ink any deal," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told PTI.

According to Kirby, Defense Secretary Hagel attaches a very high priority to the India-US defense ties.

During his three-day stay in New Delhi beginning August 7, Hagel will hold talks with Jaitley and is also expected to meet National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

He is likely to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Hagel's meetings will focus on the converging interests of India and the US in the Asia Pacific, their common interests in Afghanistan and initiatives to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation, including military exercises, defense, trade, co-production and co-development, and research and new technologies, Kirby said.

Insisting that Hagel's visit is about "nurturing relationship" and not about "military sales", Kirby said that election of a new government offers an opportunity to fulfill potential of India-US strategic partnership.

"We are committed to a long-term strategic partnership with India. We view India as a regional and emerging global power as well as provider of security and strategic partner," he said.

"We understand the importance of strategic relationship with India and we want to make sure that this relationship stays close and that we are able to create the conditions where our co-operation is normal," he added.

Kirby, who would accompany Hagel, said the defence secretary very much respects the role that India plays.

"He (Hagel) recognises that India is global player, is a strong nation and that she is becoming stronger and more influential and he respects it. This is a relationship that matters deeply to him," the Pentagon Press Secretary said.

In his meeting with Jaitley, Hagel would talk about the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, which was started during the previous UPA regime, and is considered to be path breaking in terms of defense ties between the two countries.

"US and India have converging strategic interest in the Asia Pacific region and that is demonstrated by our rebalance and by India's Look East Policy. We also have common interest in Afghanistan," Kirby said. 

Hagel's only public event is likely to be his address to the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a think-tank, and his interaction with representatives of the business and industry.

In his address to the ORF, Hagel would talk about the converging interests between the two countries, the enormous opportunities that the US has with India to capitalise on these converging interests in the region, in Afghanistan and in the defense relationship, Kirby said.

He said this visit is part of a series of administration engagements that builds on the just concluded India trip of Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker for the fifth India-US Strategic Dialogue this week, leading up to Modi's upcoming visit to the US in September.

From India, Hagel will travel to Sydney to participate in his second Australia-United States ministerial consultation.

"While the Secretary remains focused on protecting US interests amidst the ongoing developments in the Middle East and Ukraine, this trip underscores his personal commitment to our partnerships with established and emerging powers across the Asia Pacific, as well as the US and our partners' shared interests in a stable, rules-based order that can continue to deliver peace and prosperity throughout the region," Kirby added.

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