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India rejects US proposal for military alliance

India rejects US proposal for military alliance

Publication: AFP
Date: November 9, 2001

New Delhi, Nov 9 (AFP) - India reportedly thumbed its nose at a US proposal to become Washington's "foremost military ally" and a "counterweight" to China and Islamic states in the region, India Today magazine reported Friday.

In a press statement released here, India Today editor Prabhu Chawla said he had "confidential documents" which showed Washington had approached Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with a proposal for a major military alliance.

"India's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) deliberated on this at their meeting on October 19 and November 3 and rejected the proposals," the statement said.

The magazine said that US President George W. Bush's proposal would have, in effect, made India the foremost military ally of the United States in Asia.

"It envisaged a central role for India as a counterweight to China on the one hand and the Islamic states of West Asia on the other," said the magazine.

"The US had proposed military bases in India for training its forces and these included the establishment of a naval firing range and land training facilities."

The magazine added that in addition, Washington wanted the Indian Navy to safeguard American interests from the Arabian Sea to the Straits of Malacca by providing escort for its naval supply ships.

"In the event of these ships being attacked, the Indian navy was expected to engage the enemy," said the magazine.

The US proposal also included the establishment of joint communication networks.

The political news magazine added that despite India's initial rejection, the proposal for greater Indo-US military cooperation could dominate talks between Vajpayee and Bush at the White House Friday.

"Apart from hinting that military cooperation could figure during the agenda of the Vajpayee-Bush talks in the White House on Friday, officials in both countries are tightlipped," said the magazine.

"But when Bush and Vajpayee meet in Washington their discussions on the war on terrorism may well delve into the question of US military bases in India."

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was forthcoming about a need to strengthen "military-to-military and defence ties" between India and the United States during his stop-over in Delhi on November 5, added the magazine.

Vajpayee's meeting with Bush comes a day before the US president is due to meet President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Washington's role in South Asian geopolitics has become even more finely balanced since the terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon on September 11 that killed around 5,000 people.

India for its part has made no secret of how it could use US help.

Defence Minister George Fernandes recently said that India would urge the United States to lift military sanctions that prevent US companies from selling high- tech weapons systems to New Delhi.

In September, Bush partially lifted US sanctions against India and Pakistan which were imposed in 1998 after they carried out nuclear test blasts. But a ban on importing some strategic equipment is still in place.

India also wants to ensure the renewed US-Pakistan cooperation in the fight against terror does not extend to direct US sales of arms to neighbour and arch-rival Islamabad.

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