WASHINGTON, Jan 17: The United States took the first step towards resuming arms deliveries to India on Thursday by signing an agreement under which the two countries would protect technology secrets in any weapons deal between them.
The agreement, signed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and visiting Indian defence minister George Fernandes, came at a time of mounting tension between India and Pakistan.
Thursday’s accord would protect technology secrets involved in any arms deals between the US and India and analysts saw it as paving the way for renewed US arms deliveries.
“Today, Minister Fernandes and I signed a US-India bilateral general security of military information agreement, paving the way for greater technology cooperation between the United States and India,” Rumsfeld told a joint Pentagon news conference with Fernandes.
“We discussed the good progress that our two countries are making in our security relationships,” Rumsfeld added.
“In the coming months, we have an ambitious schedule of meetings on counter-terrorism, on service-to-service exercises, further strengthening the friendship and cooperation between the world’s two largest democracies.”
Fernandes also expressed pleasure.
“I am very happy that today ... we have been able to revive that (military) relationship, and we look forward to much greater cooperation between the United States military and also procuring items that we need to procure from here,” Fernandes said.
He noted, for example, that the two countries had begun a light combat aircraft project almost two decades ago and “we (India) need the engines for that.”
“We were to have gone ahead together on this, but then we parted company. And now we have again joined hands,” Fernandes told reporters.
Fernandes said there was no truth to reports that the United States had pressed Israel to halt transfer of major weapons to India until tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad were reduced.
But one senior US official told Reuters that Rumsfeld and Fernandes had discussed the issue and that India had no objections to Washington’s overtures to Israel “on the timing” of such transfers.—Reuters