April 17, 2012

Regional Issues, Defence Dominate Indo-US Talks

PTI | Apr 17, 2012


http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=759991



India and the US today held intensive discussions on East Asia in the backdrop of tensions in South China Sea and the recent defiant rocket launch by North Korea, a day after the two countries held political- military dialogue.

The two countries are having a series of meetings this week, including one on Homeland Security on Thursday and Friday apart from a trilateral with Japan on April 23.

After a gap of nearly six years, India and the US had held their first political-military dialogue here yesterday which was led by Javed Ashraf, Joint Secretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs from Indian side and by Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J Shapiro from the US.

The two sides discussed key issues such as defence, trade including US reform process in their export policy, counter-piracy and regional political-military issues.

The American side raised the issue of recovery and repatriation of US service members lost during the Second World War. To which, the Indian side expressed the openness to consider it on humanitarian grounds, official sources said.

In recent years, the US and India have significantly broadened their defence cooperation, as demonstrated by their robust engagement in bilateral dialogues, military exercises, and personnel exchanges, as well as nearly USD 9 billion in defence trade since 2008.

On the fifth India-US dialogue on Asia Pacific region, the US Embassy here said "both sides discussed a wide range of global trends and regional issues of mutual concern and committed to continue the exchange regularly in the future."

Asked about the dispute between India and China over exploration in South China sea, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said the laws of the seas should apply and issues should be addressed through dialogue.

While Campbell led the US delegation, Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in MEA was heading the Indian side. US Special Representative for Myanmar Derek Mitchell was also accompanying Campbell.

Michell's presence reflected the importance the US gives to India's views on Myanmar which is witnessing transition towards democracy with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's recent victory in parliamentary bypolls.

"Frankly, I must say we have received very good advice and counsel from India over the course of last couple of years. An encouragement about engagement, and we think that advice has been good advice in terms of how we should approach the opportunities that we are facing today," Campbell said.

On North Korea, both India and the US have voiced deep concern over the recent failed rocket launch by Pyongyang.

After the East Asia dialogue, the two countries will be holding a 'Review Meeting of Homeland Security' on Thursday and Friday which will be led by Home Secretary R K Singh and US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Jane Lute.

This will be followed by the India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue in Tokyo on April 23.

This is the second round. The inaugural dialogue took place in December last in Washington.

Apart from discussing South China Sea, North Korea related developments and the situation in Myanmar, India and the US discussed other regional issues like ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)and East Asia Summit, official sources said.

According to sources, the US also explained the "Strategic Pivot" to Asia, largely focusing on East Asia during the talks.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced that the US needed to make "a strategic pivot" in its foreign policy, where over the next decade the dynamic will be to downsize the United States’ presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to invest more and pay greater attention to the Asia-Pacific, particularly Southeast Asia.

In the past year, the US accelerated its relations with Southeast Asia in a number of symbolic and important ways.

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