U.S. Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, described India as the "lynchpin" of America's new defence strategy, vowing to expand defence ties with the country as he met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday.
The announcement came as Panetta continued his week-long tour of the region to spell out the U.S.'s shift in strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific.
Panetta said "America is at a turning point. After a decade of war, we are developing the new defence strategy...In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean Region and South Asia. Defence cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy."
Panetta added that the U.S.- India relationship "can and should become more strategic, more practical and more collaborative" and called for more joint research and production, expanding military exercises, more arms trading, and for both countries to tackle legal dilemmas posed by space weapons and cyber warfare.
The friendly relationship between the world's two largest democracies is viewed with caution from Beijing, where some fear India is part of a U.S. strategy to limit China's rise.
This has caused problems for India, who wants to please both China and America due to its need to maintain "unhindered" access to and through the South China Sea and its desire to strengthen defence cooperation with the U.S. to develop better military equipment.
India's Defence Minister AK Anthony, in attempting to quell Beijing's concerns, said that the "need to strengthen the multilateral security architecture" in the Asia Pacific must "move at a pace comfortable to all countries concerned."
Panetta followed Anthony stating "We recognise China has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity in this region. The U.S. welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous and a successful China that plays a greater role in global affairs - and respects and enforces the international norms that have governed [the Asia-Pacific] region for six decades."
Report: Panetta calls for deep US-India defence ties, more arms trade (NDTV, 6 June, 2012)
Report: US, China woo India for control over Asia-Pacific (Times of India, 7 June, 2012)
Report: Leon Panetta calls for closer defense ties with India (BBC, 6 June, 2012)
Report: Panetta calls for deep U.S.-India defense ties, more arms trade (Chicago Tribune, 6 June, 2012)
Report: India 'lynchpin' for US strategy in Asia: Leon Panetta (Economic Times, 6 June, 2012)