WASHINGTON (AP) — Regional security, Afghanistan and the tense relations between India and Pakistan top the agenda for Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ meetings this week with India’s prime minister.
It will be the first high-level talks between the two nations since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was honored at the White House in November at the Obama administration’s first state dinner.
The Pentagon said Gates will meet with Singh, and the country’s external affairs and defense chiefs.
The Indian and U.S. militaries had little interaction in the Cold War years, when India was an ally of the Soviet Union, but now conduct joint military exercises and regular exchanges, and India is a big client for U.S. arms dealers.
Although India bought some $3.5 billion in U.S. weaponry in 2008, weapons sales were not to be the focus of the trip, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
The United States has been trying to pry India and Pakistan away from a preoccupation with one another that ties up each nation’s militaries and defense budgets. India, an emerging economic power, could also be a more important regional security power in the U.S. view, while Pakistan could be a stronger bulwark against Muslim extremism.
Gates was last in India in 2008, when he held the same post as defense chief for the George W. Bush administration.