Arms for Pakistan, Export Curbs Top Antony's US Agenda

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Sep 27 (IANS): Pakistan's diversion of US supplied arms against India and export controls on high tech items top Defence Minister A. K. Antony's agenda here to prepare the ground for President Barack Obama's upcoming India visit.

"On the whole, India-US defence relations are steadily expanding and both countries have a stake in strengthening this relationship," he said ahead of his talks with top Obama administration officials over the next two days to zero in on some big ticket items for the presidential visit in November.

"But mainly these are two matters of concern too," said Antony who is slated to hold talks with Defence Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Gen James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Certainly I'll express my concerns," he told reporters at a reception Sunday by Indian ambassador Meera Shankar to meet the Indian community in Washington. "Specifically on export control, we want an early solution to that."

Antony also ruled out any dramatic announcements of any key agreements saying, "Don't expect miracles." "It's a continuing process. Discussions are going on. Many things are in the pipeline."

Antony is accompanied by Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, chief of Eastern Army Command Lt Gen. Bikram Singh, Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN) Vice Admiral D.K. Joshi and director general air operations of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal A.K. Gogoi.

The minister said large scale of supply of US arms to Pakistan is a matter of serious concern for India. "The US is giving these arms to Pakistan to fight terrorists. But in practical experience, it' always being misused. They are diverting a portion against India."

Referring to US export controls, Antony said: "On the one hand, our relations with the US are steadily increasing. In the area of defence also we are working more closely now.

"But some of our defence organisations like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and even PSUs are on the entities list."

"That's also a matter of concern," he said. "We hope there will be an early resolution of these issues."

"On the whole things are improving," Antony said pointing to joint exercises and exchange of high level visits by army, navy and air force officers.

"In the area of defence procurement too, lots of high tech items have been procured from the US in the last few years. Still many are in the pipeline and many more will come."

"Which items I can't say," he said pointing out that in the Indian system, ministers don't discuss specific defence procurements."

"But now our approach is rather than buyer-seller relations, we want technology transfer and if possible co-production and joint production," Antony said.

Asked about Gates' remark that he would discuss with Antony the $9.11 billion deal for the purchase of 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for the Indian Air Force, the minister said: "That's multi-vendor situation. Trials are over. I can't say who will get it.

Two American planes, F-16IN and F/A-18IN, a version of the Super Hornet, are among six aircraft in the race for what has been touted as India's single largest defence deal ever. The Saab Gripen, Euro fighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Mikoyan MiG-35 are the others in the running.




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