7:58 pm - Wednesday September 26, 2018

US-India ties not limited to defence deals: Hagel

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Ahead of his first visit to India, U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said that he was visiting the largest democratic country of the world to build relationship and not just military-to-military ties.

Mr. Hagel said at a meeting in Germany on Wednesday that the U.S. is looking for new partners and relationships in the Asia-Pacific region which represents both opportunities and challenges.

“In India, I’m going to follow John Kerry’s visit and our Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s visit — they were there about a week ago and attempt to try to continue to build, not just a stronger military-to-military relationship with the Indians,” Mr. Hagel said.

He said both the countries had varied and common interests that include stability, security, economics, possibilities and freedom.

“India represents the largest democracy in the world. They just had an election. They have a new government. The new Prime Minister is coming to Washington to see President Obama next month. So I’ll be there, working, yes, our specific issues, but it’s larger than that,” he said.

“When we look at Asia-Pacific, area of operation too represents tremendous new opportunities, but challenges as well. We need partners. We need relationships. That’s the kind of world we live in, and that’s the kind of world that we’re going to be living in,” he said.

Defence deals worth over Rs. 20,000 crore, intelligence sharing on counter-terrorist activities and steps to strengthen military ties are expected to be discussed during the visit.

During his visit, Mr. Hagel is scheduled to hold meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Defence Ministry officials said.

The issue of intelligence sharing and discussions on deals for procuring 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers along with four P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft is expected to come up for discussion in the meetings.

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