Wednesday, June 6, 2012

US Wants India to Play Greater Role in Afghanistan

by VOA News
U.S. officials say Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will encourage India to take a more active role in Afghanistan, as he meets with officials to discuss regional security and defense relations.
Panetta arrived Tuesday in New Delhi for two days of talks with Indian officials.
U.S. defense officials say there is a risk that "the tensions and historical mistrust between India and Pakistan could lead them to view their respective roles in Afghanistan as being in conflict." But the officials told reporters traveling with Panetta that the longtime rivals have a shared interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has long felt it has a strategic interest in Afghanistan, and is especially concerned about the diplomatic, political, and economic inroads made there by its archrival, India.
India has provided $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, and last October the two countries signed a strategic agreement pledging deeper security and economic ties. India is already helping Afghan security forces prepare for the withdrawal of international troops set to be completed by the end of 2014.
The talks between Panetta and Indian officials centered on what the Pentagon calls "Asia re-balancing." Panetta told a security forum in Singapore Saturday the U.S. Navy would shift the majority of its ships to the Pacific by 2020 as part of a strategic focus on Asia.
U.S. officials say India can help promote security and stability in the Indian Ocean region and the South Asian country has been singled out in the new U.S. strategy.
Tuesday, Secretary Panetta met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. Officials say that during the meeting, India agreed to allow the United States to resume efforts to recover the remains of missing American service members who crashed in India during World War II.
The Pentagon estimates there are about 400 missing troops from some 90 aircraft crashes in India's northeast.
Panetta will make a policy speech in New Delhi on Wednesday. This is his first visit to India as defense secretary and it follows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's stop in the South Asian country last month.

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