NEW DELHI, June 3: India and the United States said on Thursday they had agreed to strengthen cooperation in defence and the global war on terror following talks between a top US defence official and the new Indian government.
The talks between Douglas Feith, US under secretary for defence policy, and Indian officials focussed on strengthening cooperation and the security situation in South Asia and Iraq, a statement issued a day after the meeting concluded said.
In the talks which started on Tuesday, the two sides noted there was a growing area of convergence including in "security issues with special emphasis on terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and security of sea-lanes," the statement added.
Mr Feith made a presentation on key areas such as missile defence and updates on the security situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. The previous Indian government - unlike many close US allies - had been receptive to Washington's proposed missile defence shield.
Mr Feith's visit, part of regularly scheduled bilateral talks since 1993, came three months after the US named India's rival Pakistan a major non-NATO military ally, raising furore in New Delhi which does not have the preferential status.
The United States and India, then led by prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, signed a landmark agreement in January to share advanced technology, including in peaceful nuclear applications.
Washington has held several joint military exercises with Indian defence forces over the past three to four years. However, the previous Indian government had turned down a US request to send troops to Iraq on fears of a political backlash at home.
A senior Indian army official said the army had earmarked a brigade of troops which could be sent to Iraq under the UN flag, but added it would need three months' notice before deploying them.
"We have earmarked a brigade-worth of troops for any eventuality in Iraq, in case a request is received from the United Nations," army additional director general, Major General R.P.S Malhan was quoted as saying by the United News of India.
The new government has not made any announcement or given any indications that it would send troops to Iraq. Gen Malhan also said Indian troops were preparing to go to Sudan to join UN peacekeeping operations. "We have agreed to send troops to Sudan, in assistance of the UN mission in the country," he said.He did not specify where in Sudan the troops were headed. -AFP