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US talks 'rebalance' as Defence Secy Panetta meets PM, NSA

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta during a meeting at 7RCR in New Delhi on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Days after announcing shifting of bulk of its naval fleet to the Asia-Pacific region, the US on Tuesday said India was key to its plan for having a "rebalance" in the region and pressed it to play a greater role in Afghanistan.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who arrived here on Tuesday, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

The US Department of Defence said the meetings were "productive" and Panetta discussed "the US rebalance to the Asia pacific region and the importance US places on India."

In a major re-posturing plan, the US had announced on Saturday that it will shift the bulk of its naval fleet including as many as six aircraft carriers to the Pacific Ocean by 2020 as part of new strategic focus on Asia.

"Secretary Panetta underscored the link India plays between East and West Asia and how the US views India as a net provider of security from the Indian Ocean to Afghanistan and beyond," the release said.

During the meeting, the US is also expected to have asked India to play a more active role in Afghanistan.

The two sides are also expected to have discussed the security scenario in the region after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

The release said the two sides "discussed the US-India defence relationship, our shared interests, and common security challenges."

India and the US have been increasing their defence cooperation in the recent past in terms of military hardware cooperation and exercises between the armed forces of the two countries.

The US Defence Secretary will on Wednesday hold a meeting with Defence Minister A K Antony where the two sides are expected to discuss the entire gamut of their strategic and military relationship and the situation in the Af-Pak region.

"During the meeting, the ongoing defence cooperation and regional security situation will figure prominently," the Defence Ministry said here in a release.

Sources said that the situation in the Middle-East was also discussed in talks on Tuesday.

China is also expected to figure in the discussions between the two countries, which have been increasing their military cooperation in the recent past.

The Indian side is also expected to take up the issue of denial of dual-use items by the US to the laboratories under the DRDO.

The issue has been discussed earlier at the meetings of the Defence Policy Group also where India has demanded that the definition of dual-use items should be reviewed by the US authorities.

The US side is also likely to push India to sign the long-pending agreements such as the CISMOA and LSA but it is believed that New Delhi will not change its position.

US officials said India has agreed to resume a mission to recover the remains of American soldiers who went missing during World War II in the Northeast.


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