India-U.S. defence talks by year-end

WASHINGTON, AUG. 30. India and the United States will start the regular defence dialogue suspended in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests. The two-tier dialogue involving the Defence Policy Group, led by the Defence Secretaries and the Executive Steering Groups chaired, at the Vice-Chiefs of Staff-level, is expected to resume at the end of the year.

The military-to-military cooperation will further intensify in the months to come with the visits of Admiral Blair, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Forces and the Commander of the Pacific Air Force, Gen. William Begert. The two visits will take place this year.

Last week, the Indian Ambassador, Mr. Lalit Mansingh, made a four-day visit to Hawaii, where he had serious discussions with the top military leadership of the Pacific Command. The topics of discussions included the regional situation and military-to- military cooperation between the U.S. and India. Mr. Mansingh also met the two Democratic Senators from Hawaii, Mr. Daniel Inouye and Mr. Daniel Akaka. The Bush administration has made it known in the last six months that it is for further deepening and intensifying relations with India and that the parameters of this engagement will be a broad-based one and not confined to one or two areas.

As a part of this agenda, Washington is keen on broadening cooperation with India on a number of specific areas such as terrorism, piracy on the high seas and peacekeeping operations. The two countries already have joint working groups (JWGs) led by senior officials on terrorism and peacekeeping operation.

The Republican administration has also come under increasing pressure to fully utilise the waivers given to the President on the subject of sanctions against India. In fact, last week the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Joseph Biden, in a letter to the President urged him to lift sanctions against India. The fact that someone like Senator Biden had given the ``green light'' is an extremely positive development given that the Democratic Senator has some tough views on proliferation.

The Bush administration is also coming under pressure from within to do ``something'' for Pakistan, although it cannot go the whole distance given that the country faces punitive measures in the aftermath of the last military coup. If sanctions against Islamabad are to fully go, the President has to issue a certification to the Congress that democracy has been restored in Pakistan. One feeling on Capitol Hill is that sanctions against Pakistan would have to be lifted to the fullest extent possible.