Washington DC, USA: Admiral Timothy Keating, commander, US Pacific Command, has told the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, that Washington is going to "aggressively" pursue the expansion of bilateral relations between India and the United States of America in the area of defence.
Adm Keating was making an appearance before the committee on the subject of military command budgets when senior Republican senator John Warner asked him about India as an area of responsibility within the Pacific Command.
"We value our relationships with Pakistan, China, Russia, and the like. It's sort of another one of those very delicate balancing acts, but I do hope that we're strengthening our relationships with India and in some ways compete with Russia, which is, I think, one of their main contributors for arms, and so forth. Could you address that status? " Warner asked.
Admiral Keating replied: "Agree with your assessment of India's importance to us as an ally. We are discovering India's interest in our recognition of the Indian Ocean as something other than water through which navy vessels hurtle as we go to the Central Command AOR (Area of Responsibility). We just concluded a significant exercise with the Indian Navy, five to seven of their ships and a number of our ships, submarines and airplanes. The Indians acquitted themselves very well in this exercise..."
"So, this is one example of the expansion of our military-to-military relationship with India. And as you I think know, they are considering more US weapons systems in their acquisition plans and not relying exclusively on the former Soviet Union equipment," the top US commander said.
"So, we're encouraged by India's willingness to deal with us, to exercise with us and to exchange, again, a broad array of officers for individual and group training. And we are going to pursue this expansion with them aggressively," Admiral Keating maintained.
Earlier, in his opening remarks to the powerful senate panel, Admiral Keating spoke briefly of India as it pertained to the Asia Pacific. "The partnership that we enjoy with India is solid and expanding. I will visit India later on in the summer," the top American commander said.
Senator Warner referred to the "tenuous" ties between India and Pakistan and asked Keating to comment on their present status and the "foreseeable" future.
"I had a discussion within the past 24 hours, senator, with a couple of senior officers from the Central Command. And we are entertaining ideas about blurring up this line between India and Pakistan that is the PACOM-CENTCOM... line of authority," Admiral Keating responded.
"And we are going to intentionally pollinate across that line on a military basis, so as to become more aware of the issues in Pakistan and India, as I have been stationed in the CENTCOM AOR and have several good friends in Pakistan still. So, we're going to work on understanding the differences and help them decrease the tension....," he added.
"And there are indications out of State Department that the Kashmir issue may be moving forward in the eyes of India and Pakistan toward resolution. So, we're encouraged," Admiral Keating said.