Washington: US defence secretary Robert Gates heads to India this week in his first visit in almost two years as he seeks to expand the Barack Obama administration’s ties to the country through military cooperation.
Gates will highlight India’s growing role as a regional power and emerging global player and explore further joint military efforts, a US defence official said. The defence chief, who will arrive in New Delhi on 19 January, will draw on the interest that India and the US share in ensuring stability in South Asia, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Strengthening ties: US defence secretary Robert Gates. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Gates described India, China, Russia and Indonesia, as new and re-emerging centres of power in a speech in Singapore in May. “Cooperation with India has reached levels unthinkable in the recent past,” he had said.
“In coming years, we look to India to be a partner and net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond,” Gates told an audience at an annual Asian security conference.
Obama has called India, the world’s largest democracy and fastest-growing economy after China, a critical partner on issues from climate change to combating terrorism. India is also helping with development in Afghanistan, and participates in more far-flung ventures such as a multinational anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa.
Gates’ trip follows secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic mission to India in July and the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington in November.
Joint military exercises with the US have increased steadily since 2002, the US defence official said.
Gates will look for new areas of cooperation and how the two militaries might be involved in joint counter-terrorism efforts, the official said. He said the two countries will also seek ways to improve operations, such as with common equipment.