U.S. wants India to support Kabul through trade and investment, says Panetta
New Delhi, June 6 (ANI): Stating that Washington now has an enduring partnership agreement with Afghanistan, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday said that he has urged the Indian leaders to continue with additional support to Kabul through trade and investment, reconstruction, and help for the security forces.
"We are making significant progress with transition. The United States now has an enduring partnership agreement with Afghanistan. I urged India's leaders to continue with additional support to Afghanistan through trade and investment, reconstruction, and help for Afghanistan's security forces," said Panetta during his address at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses here.
"We discussed Afghanistan, where we have embarked on a transition to Afghan responsibility for security, governance, and economic affairs. India has supported this process through its own significant investments in Afghan reconstruction and has signed a 1ong-term partnership agreement with Afghanistan," he added.
Panetta said that he discussed the new defense strategy that is guiding the United States military's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region during his two-day India visit.
" We discussed the value of the ASEAN "regional architecture" in promoting international norms and in guaranteeing freedom of navigation," he added.
Panetta said that he also discussed lndia's immediate neighborhood with the leadership in New Delhi
" In particular, I welcomed the initial steps India and Pakistan have taken to normalize trade relations, a process that 'We believe is key to resolving their differences and to helping Pakistan turn around its economy and counter extremism within its borders. Pakistan is a complicated relationship for both of our countries but one that we must work to improve'," said Panetta.
"Finally, we exchanged views about other key issues like piracy and terrorism, tensions in the South China Sea, our concerns about lran and North Korea's destabilizing activities, and new challenges like cyber intrusions and cyber warfare," he added.
Panetta said the defense partnership between United States and India is coming of age at a practical level, and added that expanded military exercises, defense sales, and intelligence sharing are key examples of the relationship's maturation.
"Last year alone, we held more than 50 cooperative defense events. Some of the most significant include our military exercises, which enhance our ability to prepare for real-World challenges. The annual "MALABAR" naval exercise has grown from a "passing exercise" for our ships into a full-scale engagement across all functional areas of naval warfare," said Panetta.
"In March, U.S. Army soldiers joined their counterparts in India to rehearse scenarios involving United Nations Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief in a post-conflict setting. U.S. soldiers even had the chance to participate in a Holi celebration, which I gather is a very colorful experience," he added.
Panetta further said 'one month later, the SHATRUJEET exercise took place at Camp Pendleton in California, with amphibious operations and other exercises between U.S. Marines and Indian soldiers'.
The visiting U.S. Defence Secretary held delegation-level talks with Defence Minister A.K. Antony earlier this morning during which they reviewed the security situation in South Asia and the Af-Pak region.
Panetta gave an assurance to Antony that the US would initiate measures to provide access to technology, along with sales. (ANI)
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