Shangri-La Dialogue: Gates says watershed in Indo-US relations

30 May 2009


Singapore: US defence secretary Robert Gates said Saturday that relations between India and the United States had reached new levels. In the coming years, the United States would look to India providing security in the Indian Ocean and beyond, he said.

''When it comes to India, we have seen a watershed in our relations – cooperation that would have been unthinkable in the recent past. As Admiral Keating, commander of United States Pacific Command, recently wrote, it is a "genuine convergence of national interests." In coming years, we look to India to be a partner and net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond,'' Gates said in his address.

He was speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue 2009, a three day regional conference on Asian defence and security organized by the non-government, London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.Gades was also categorical that the United States would never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

He warned that Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests might lead to a new arms race in Asia. "Our goal is complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Gates told participants.

North Korea's sabre rattling "poses the potential for a kind of an arms race in the region," Gates said. "We will not stand by idly as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in Asia - or on us," he added.

"We unequivocally reaffirm our commitment to the defence of our allies in the region," Gates said.

Gates told defence ministers and security policy wonks from 27 countries gathered at the Shangri-La Hotel that the United States had an enduring role in Asia but that its government would like to see more cooperation among US allies and partners in the region.

"This does not mean any weakening of our bilateral ties but rather enhancing security by adding to them multilateral cooperation," Gates said.

He pointed out that security today moved beyond military concerns and encompassed piracy, ethnic strife, poverty, climate change and terrorism. In this regard he asked for more multilateral efforts to establish a sustainable government in Afghanistan.

"The challenge in Afghanistan is so complex and so untraditional, that it can only be met by all of us working in concert," he said.

He also asked for "a real change" in military-ruled Myanmar and for the release of its political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Su Kyi. Gates said there had to be a "meaningful dialogue between the junta and the opposition."

Talking about China, Gates asked for increased transparency from China regarding its strategic goals, political intentions and military development.

The United States would also reach out to new countries, Gates said "to forge new partnerships in places long disregarded," and cited Cambodia as an example.

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