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US wants to strengthen military ties with India: Gates

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Ahead of his meeting with Indian counterpart A K Antony, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said the Pentagon wants to strengthen and expand its military to military ties with India.

"We are looking to expand this relationship in ways that are mutually beneficial," Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing ahead of the crucial Antony visit next week.

"They (India) have a big competition going on for a new modern fighter. We'll probably have some conversations about that," Gates.

The Defence Secretary said he had a very good visit to India last year wherein he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony.

Responding to a question on the India's concerns about restriction on export of high-technology items, Gates acknowledged that this is high on the agenda and he would like to see those restrictions removed.

"I think that that is certainly high on our list, particularly in the context of export-import, or export controls, and my view of the importance of changing those export controls in ways that better protect the things that are really important and open up trade and allow US companies to sell abroad those things that technologies that are not critical," Gates said.

"So, I think India certainly is high on our list in terms of a country that we would like, I would like to see those restrictions eased," Gates said at the Pentagon conference which was jointly addressed by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The military-to-military relationship with India is exceptionally strong and growing, said Mullen.

"We are very committed to that, and with all of our services. I was recently there and it has taken on a significance that is equal to so many other historic relationships for us, and we know that," Mullen said.

"The Indian Ocean, we also know, is an incredibly important body of water; not just now, but also in the future. So we recognise the importance of keeping that relationship as strong as it is, and also making it grow," he said.

First Published: Fri, September 24 2010. 09:29 IST