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Remarks of MEA Spokesperson on the visit of US Secretary of Defence, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld.

New Delhi
December 9, 2004

Official Spokesperson: Good evening. I thought I would give you a few points on the visit of US Secretary of Defence, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, who has visited India yesterday and today i.e. December 8 and 9. During this visit he has called on the Prime Minister and held discussions with the External Affairs Minister, Raksha Mantri as well as the National Security Advisor.

We attach importance to the visit of Secretary Rumsfeld. This is the first visit at the Cabinet level after the re-election of President George Bush. As you know, defence cooperation has imparted a significant impetus to the emerging Indo-US strategic partnership. The role played by the Department of Defence in the growth of our bilateral ties was recognized during the discussions today. It was also noted that India cherishes its relations that are based on our shared belief in democracy. During the discussions considerable emphasis was also laid on the maintenance of the strategic focus of our bilateral relationship.

The visit provided an excellent opportunity to review our current bilateral defence cooperation. There was satisfaction expressed at the rapid growth of this relationship including the effective working of the dialogue mechanism, military to military contacts, exercises, visits, education and training. There was visible interest in broadening the ambit of our defence cooperation. Both sides also agreed and reiterated their commitment to work closely together in war against terrorism and combating WMD proliferation. The NSSP (Next Steps in Strategic Partnership) and related initiatives between India and the United States were also discussed.

Other international and regional issues also came up for discussion. In particular there was an exchange of views on the situation in Afghanistan where Secretary Rumsfeld has just been for the inauguration of President Karzai. He expressed deep appreciation for the reconstruction assistance being extended by India. Afghanistan represented an example where India and US have cooperated closely to advance their shared agenda. The Indian side also made suggestions on steps that could facilitate aid and assistance that we are currently providing to Afghanistan.

The two sides also shared perspective on their respective ties with Pakistan. Concern was expressed from our side about the repercussions of US arms supply on the ongoing India-Pakistan dialogue currently poised at a sensitive juncture. It was noted that India-US relations had seen significant transformation during President Bush’s first term and that US was now perceived as a strategic partner. These arms sales could impact on the positive sentiment and goodwill for the US in India. Secretary Rumsfeld conveyed that US understood Indian sensitivities in this regard and would remain continually in touch. He said that the US did not envisage relations with India and Pakistan as a zero-sum game and it was a US objective to have good relations with both countries.

In the context of other global and regional issues , Secretary Rumsfeld also shared his assessment of the situation in Iraq expressing his optimism that the holding of elections would lead to an improvement. From our side our stakes in the Gulf region and traditional friendship for the people of Iraq were highlighted