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Leon Panetta urges India, US to bury differences with Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Even as he underlined that the US would continue drone attacks to take out the leadership of al-Qaida and Taliban in Pakistan, US defence secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday said both New Delhi and Washington must work to resolve their differences with Islamabad.

“I welcome the initial steps India and Pakistan have taken to normalize trade relations, a process that we believe is key to resolving their differences and to help Pakistan turn around its economy and counter extremism within its borders,” said Panetta, at a lecture at IDSA.

“Pakistan is a complicated relationship for both our countries but one that we must work to improve. India and the US will need to continue to engage Pakistan overcoming our respective – and often deep – differences with Pakistan to make all of South Asia peaceful and prosperous,” he said.

Holding that a stable Pakistan was needed for a stable Afghanistan, Panetta said he had urged the Indian leadership to continue with their “additional support” to Kabul through trade and investment, reconstruction and training assistance to the Afghan security forces as the war-ravaged country transitions to self-governance.

Around 300 Afghan security personnel currently undergo courses in Indian military training establishments annually, with plans afoot to increase the intake to around 1,000. Panetta, on his part, strongly supported this “expansion” in the endeavour.

On the bilateral defence and security cooperation, Panetta pitched for “deepening” the Indo-US ties to “truly provide security for this region and the world”. During the delegation-level talks, defence minister AK Antony also stressed the priority for India was to move beyond the buyer-seller transactions and to focus on transfer of high-end technologies.

Panetta said the US was “firmly committed” to providing the “best defence technology possible” to India. “But to realize the full potential of defence trade relations, we need to cut through the bureaucratic red-tape on both sides,” he said, adding he was certain that the bilateral defence trade would transition to “substantial co-production and eventually joint R&D in high technology”.

As a humanitarian step, India will also allow the resumption of the search for the “remains” of the 430 American personnel, in the upper reaches of Arunachal Pradesh and other states, who were killed in plane crashes while flying the Himalayan “hump” between India and China during World War-II.

“This is a humanitarian gesture by the Indian government, with whom we share so many values. The ability to return heroes to their loved ones is something that America deeply, deeply appreciates,” said Panetta. While US personnel had earlier conducted some such search missions in the region, they were later halted by India probably because of the China factor in Arunachal.

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Posted by on Jun 7 2012. Filed under Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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