US Defence Secretary to Visit India in June

Washington, May 23 (IANS): Calling developing the US-India relationship as a priority for the United States, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta will travel to India in the first week of June, the Pentagon announced.

"Developing the US-India relationship is a priority for the United States government, and our bilateral relationship is one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century for the United States," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters Tuesday.

Panetta's first trip to India trip as defence secretary is part of a week-long Asia trip. He will leave here May 30 to participate in the Shangri La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security forum of 28 Asia-Pacific states, in Singapore where he is expected to speak about US defence policy in an era of austerity.

He will then travel to Vietnam and India reaching New Delhi in the first week of June.

Stressing the central role of the Asia-Pacific region in US strategic guidance, Little said: "The secretary, when he was last in Asia, previewed much of that strategy. He talked about the United States being a Pacific nation and a Pacific power."

The Asia-Pacific region is vital to US national security interests and will be in the future, he said.

"We are absolutely turning toward the Asia-Pacific as a place where our strategic interests are increasingly of importance," he said. "Our partnerships ... in the region are critical. And we're going to continue to invest in those relationships."


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