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US-India defence ties not to be hit by budgetary cuts: Pentagon

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WASHINGTON (PTI): The US on Sunday said its "strong" military ties with India are growing and a series of joint exercises between them are unlikely to be hit by massive defence budgetary cuts announced this week.

"I can tell you that the US-India relationship is a priority for the US Government and for the US Department of Defence because a strong bilateral partnership is in the United States' interests and benefits both countries," Cmdr Leslie Hull-Ryde, a defence department spokeswoman, told PTI.

Hull-Ryde was responding to questions on India-US defence relationship in the aftermath of the latest defence strategic document of the Pentagon, which says that the United States is investing in a long term strategic partnership with India.

"The United States is investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region," said the strategic document unveiled by President Barack Obama at the Pentagon.

The new strategy policy is supposed to shape Pentagon budget priorities as Obama's administration prepares for USD 487 billion in defence cuts over the next 10 years.

"It's premature to discuss budget-related specifics as our leadership is still going through the process of making final budget decisions," she said.

However, given the significance attached to the India-US defence relationship, officials said the series of military-to-military exercises between the two countries are unlikely to be affected by this massive defence cuts.

Some of the important exercises currently scheduled between the US and India for this year are Shatrujeet (spring), Yudh Abhyas (spring), Habu Nag (late fall), Malabar (spring) and RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise), which is the world's largest international maritime exercise in the summer.

At this time there is no indication that any of these exercises being affected by any US budget constraints, said a Pacific Command official.

"In the past decade, there has been a rapid transformation in the US-India defence relationship. What was once a nascent relationship between unfamiliar nations has now evolved into a strategic partnership between two of the preeminent powers in Asia," the spokeswoman said.

"Today, US-India ties are strong and growing. Our military-to-military engagement has increased steadily over the past ten years and now includes a robust slate of dialogues, military exercises, defence trade, personnel exchanges and armaments cooperation," she said.


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