India-US discuss regional security, defence purchases
New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) The regional situation and India's purchases of military hardware were discussed Wednesday by Defence Minister A.K. Antony and his visiting US counterpart Leon Panetta, an official said.
'A wide range of issues relating to the neighbourhood and the region were discussed in detail. The ongoing defence cooperation and India's purchases of military hardware from the US also came up for discussion,' said an official of the 45-minute meeting in South Block.
Panetta, who arrived here Tuesday on a two-day visit, earlier laid a wreath at the India Gate memorial to the unknown soldier. He had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon after his arrival.
Panetta's visit, the last leg of a nine-day swing through Asia, comes ahead of the June 13 India-US strategic dialogue in Washington between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Just how prominently New Delhi figures in Washington's calculations can be gauged from the fact that the Pentagon has described India as a global power, which is meeting its responsibilities, and appreciated its work to help provide continuing support in Afghanistan.
'India is a global power, and they are meeting their responsibilities and we welcome that,' Department of Defence spokesman Captain John Kirby said in Washington Tuesday.
He discouted reports that the US wanted India to step up its role in Afghanistan.
'I think the reports have been slightly exaggerated,' he said when asked if Panetta would urge India to take a more active role in Afghanistan.
'I don't believe the secretary asked them to impress them to do more...
'It was really more a statement of appreciation for everything they've done and the hope that they'll continue to stay involved as a leader in the region.'
To characterise Panetta's visit to 'India as some sort of poke in the chest to get them to do more would be to do his visit a disservice', he said.
Pentagon's comments came a day after Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said the US believes New Delhi has the 'institutional capacity to become a world power'.
At the State Department, spokesman Mark Toner said: 'We look forward, obviously, to next week's very important meeting as another opportunity to engage with our Indian counterparts.
'We believe our relationship with India is very strong and very positive, and moving in a positive trajectory.'
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