India brings great capabilities and shared interest: Pentagon

"When you start looking at which countries you want to cooperate with the most, you look immediately to countries that bring great capabilities and bring shared interests. That's what we have in India and that's why the (India-US) partnership is so important," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Robert Scher said.

He said in response to questions after delivering his remarks on India-US defense relationship organised by New American Foundation, a Washington-based eminent think tank.

Scher was part of the high-powered US delegation led by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India in July.

He said that maritime security was the clear area of focus that was identified by the two countries.

"That is the large focus of the defense policy group. It was the focus of Secretary Clinton's trip, talking about maritime security and recognising that maritime security was not just the Defense Department, but there are many other actors involved. So that would be the key area where we would be looking to see how we explore more with India," he said.

The US and India, he said, share a clear desire for freedom of navigation and unimpeded sea lines of communication, particularly in the Indian Ocean.

"And through our military engagements this year, we will seek to deepen cooperation on key issues such as maritime domain awareness, countering piracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," the official said.

"India is a major regional and global power. We view our relationship with India as a partnership of equals -- two nation states with a commonality of security interests in the Indian Ocean region and beyond," he said, adding the most important thing the US is doing in its defense relationship with India is building mutual trust and understanding that will help to ensure that common values and interests can translate into common approaches.

Referring to the scheduled India-US-Japan trilateral dialogue later this year, Scher said, Japan falls into the categories of countries like India that have shared interest and capabilities to jointly address the global challenges.

India and the US have an important role in fostering multilateral cooperation in Asia and supporting the emerging regional security architectures, Scher said.

"Overall we will increasingly look to India's leadership and partnership in promoting and maintaining security in the region and the world," Scher said.

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