P.S. Suryanarayana

Meets Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the sidelines of Asia Security Summit

SINGAPORE: United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Saturday said Washington "values greatly" its military-to-military relationship with New Delhi. The two countries would stay the cooperative course in the defence domain.

Mr. Rumsfeld was responding to a question from the media after his 30-minute meeting with Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the sidelines of the ongoing Asia Security Summit here.

Describing the talks as "very useful," Mr. Mukherjee said "our cooperation in all sectors is going on smoothly since last June." India and the U.S. had then signed a framework agreement on defence-related issues.

Multifaceted ties

Asked whether the U.S. military establishment now saw India as a dialogue partner or potential ally or simply as a friend, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "I don't know all the code words that diplomats use. But, over the past five or six years, the relationship between the U.S. and India, from a military-to-military standpoint, has been on a steady improvement. And, it is multi-faceted at this stage. It involves exercise. It involves working together on problems of common interest. And we certainly expect to see that our areas of common interest will continue to bring us together, from a military-to-military standpoint, in the months and years to come."

Speaking separately after the talks, Mr. Mukherjee discounted that China's military profile was a matter of common interest in India-U.S. dialogue.

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