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'Bureaucratic red tape must be cut for strong defence ties'

Leon Panetta 

As the United States and India deepen our with each other, both of us will also seek to strengthen our relations with China. We recognise that China has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity in this region. The US welcomes the rise of a strong and prosperous China, which plays a greater role in global affairs and enforces the international norms, that have governed this region for six decades.

And again... India and the US will need to continue to engage Pakistan, overcoming our respective and often deep differences with Pakistan, to make all of South Asia peaceful and prosperous.

And, to improve our practical cooperation, I do believe that the US’ and India’s participation in military exercises, which are already strong, should continue to be more regular and complex. We must move beyond a focus on individual arms sales to regular cooperation that increases the quantity and the quality of our defence trade.

I want to stress that the US is firmly committed to providing the best defence technology possible to India. We are both leaders in technology development, and we can do incredible work together. Indeed, I think a close partnership with America will be key to meeting India’s own stated aims — of a modern and effective defence force. The is hard at work on export control reforms, in cooperation with our Congress, in order to improve our ability to deliver the best technologies even more quickly. Meanwhile, we look to India to modernise its own regulations in areas like defence procurement and nuclear liability legislation.

But to realise the full potential of defence trade relations, we need to cut through the bureaucratic red tape on both sides. For that reason, I’ve asked my deputy secretary, Ash Carter, to lead an effort at the Pentagon to engage with Indian leaders on a new initiative to streamline our bureaucratic processes and make our defence trade more simple, more responsive and more effective.

Believe me, I know this is not going to be easy... But that’s the nature of the democratic systems that we share. Your leaders understand the challenges I face, and we understand the obstacles you face. But we both need to persevere to support our defence needs and our strategic interests. Over the long term, I am certain that we will transition our defence trade beyond the buyer-seller relationship to a substantial co-production and eventually high-technology joint research and development.

During my visit to Asia this week, I have sought to bring closure to some of the past chapters of the US’ involvement in this region. The government of opened three new areas to search for our missing in action from the War.

And, here in India, I am pleased to announce that the Indian government will allow a team to return to India to continue the search for US service members that were lost during This is a humanitarian gesture by a government with whom we share so many values. The ability to return these heroes and the remains of these heroes to their loved ones is something that America deeply, deeply appreciates. America’s involvement in Asia has an important past, but it has an even more important future. India is at the crossroads of Asia. It is at the crossroads of a new global economy, and it is at the crossroads of regional security. The US will stand with India at those crossroads.

Question: Mr Secretary, the first point I have, 60 per cent of your warships are being moved into the Pacific. Is that enough? Warships can’t operate on their own. I presume that you are moving ground forces, amphibious forces; we have not heard about that. But warships cannot be all alone. They need ground backing. Second is command and control. With the centre of gravity moving to the western Pacific, would Hawaii be a suitable place for command and control? In World War II, you remember MacArthur operated from Australia. So, I hope you are taking that into consideration. Otherwise, you need amphibious forces. Panetta: Thank you. Thank you for your questions. With regard to the rebalancing issue to the Pacific, we will move to a 60-40 balance in the Pacific, and I listed the ships that would be involved in that transition. At the same time, we will not only maintain a significant ground force in the Pacific — we have a large number of forces in the Pacific at present, most of them located in Korea. We have a presence elsewhere. And, our hope is to expand what we have termed a rotational presence throughout the Pacific. The marines are locating in a rotational process in Australia. We’ve already located some there. That will continue to expand. We’re exploring a rotational presence in the Philippines as well as elsewhere. In Okinawa, where we just arrived, in an agreement with the Japanese, we will continue to maintain a presence there, but we are moving those troops as well, these are marines, to Guam. And, we will establish a larger presence in Guam. So, part and parcel of our focus on the Pacific will involve obviously the kind of forces that you identify, to ensure that we have ground forces in place to be able to enhance that capability.

With regard to command and control, our view is that the present (US Pacific Command), which operates out of Hawaii, provides the kind of joint force capability that is going to be very important for the Pacific. We believe in joint forces. We will have a significant air force as well as army and marine corps and navy presence in this region. But we are not in the process of doing what we did in the Cold War of establishing permanent bases from which we can project our power. Our approach here is to work with the countries in the region to develop their capabilities, so that they can play a larger role in helping to secure and defend their countries in this region.

So, I think the headquarters at is very efficient at being able to take charge of this rebalancing effort. And again, with regard to amphibious forces, we do have a significant number of marines in the region. We will continue to maintain those.

Edited excerpts from a lecture by US Defence Secretary
Leon Panetta at the Institute of Defence Studies
and Analysis in New Delhi on June 6

First Published: Sun, June 10 2012. 00:02 IST