US keen on military ties with India in re-balanced Asia-Pacific

Washington, July 30 (IANS) Describing the Indian Army as the "most influential" in Asia Pacific, a top US general wants to work with regional partners such as India and Egypt to help shape a prosperous and stable global order.

"Military to military relationships are very important especially in times of crisis," US Chief of Army Staff General Raymond T Odierno said Monday in a talk on "Squaring the circle: American military strategy in a time of declining resources."

"Going over there and establishing personal relationships with (military) leaders of India help us when if a crisis occurs, we then know each other. We can have a conversation. We can talk about issues and for me that is worth a lot," he said.

Noting that a large majority of Indian military leaders were educated in the US, Odierno, who has just returned from a visit to India, said: "So that helps us to understand each other as we go forward."

"So for me that's the kind of thing we have to do as we tackle some of the tough problems," he said addressing the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington-based think tank on US policy of re-balance towards the Asia-

Pacific region.

"As you look at the Asia Pacific, it's about competition for resources, limited resources," Odierno said. "It's about making sure that everyone is able to sustain their own sovereignty and their interests."

Turning to his India visit, he said "the conversation we had was about how we are going to help each other as we look ahead and we try to ensure that some of these issues don't get blown out much bigger than something needs to be."

"As is in many of the Asia-Pacific countries, the Army is the dominant service in those countries. India is a prime example. It is by far the largest service. It is by far the most influential," he said.

"It is important for us to build army-to-army relations as we continue to re-balance the Asia- Pacific region," said Odierno, who had a wide range of discussions with the top Indian military leadership, including his counterpart Gen Bikram Singh.

"One of things we have to remember is, we have to make sure they maintain their own strategic autonomy. And we do things in line with them to help build capacity, help learn from each other," he said.

"So I think that will be the basis of the continued relationship, is the sharing of information about what they face on a day-to-day basis up in the Kashmir area, with Pakistan, as well with China," he said in response to a question.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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