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US-Indian Military Accord Does Not Compromise Security: Defence Minister

What's a little proliferation among friends.

New Delhi (AFP) Aug 02, 2005
India's defence minister Tuesday defended a military pact with Washington signed in June that paves the way for joint weapons production and cooperation on missile defence, saying it did not compromise national security.

"The document, more than anything else, signals the United States' willingness to enhance defence cooperation with India and strengthen our defence capabilities," Pranab Mukherjee told parliament, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

"It is an enabling document that provides a framework within which specific cooperation can take place. It is up to us how we develop this. This will not be dictated to us. It will be decided by mutual agreement," he said.

It was in India's interest to see how New Delhi could exploit this "change of attitude" to its advantage, he added.

The 10-year accord concluded during Mukherjee's visit to Washington has been opposed by communists who provide crucial outside support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition government.

Under the "New Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship", New Delhi and Washington have agreed to set up a defense procurement and production group to oversee defense trade, as well as prospects for co-production and technology collaboration."

The two countries would also "enhance capabilities to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the agreement says but Mukherjee gave no indication of whether New Delhi would join the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative aimed at stopping shipments of weapons of mass destruction.

Critics of the deal have questioned the "haste" and "secrecy" with which it was concluded, citing Mukherjee's own statements ahead of his departure to Washington that the visit would be "exploratory" in nature.

In his statement to parliament Mukherjee said the accord contained only "enabling provisions" and "does not contain any commitments or obligations".

He also denied claims by the communists that the deal promoted US security interests only.

Last week, Singh defended the deal and denied claims it would limit the country's nuclear weapons program.

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US Deputy Secretary Of State Zoellick In China For Strategic Dialogue
Beijing (AFP) Jul 31, 2005
Deputy US Secretary of State Robert Zoellick arrived in the Chinese capital Beijing on Sunday to take part in a strategic dialogue between the two countries, state media reported.

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