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US Defense Secretary Says Military Ties With India Will Strengthen  - 2004-12-09

.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has paid a visit to the Indian capital New Delhi for discussions on how to improve military relations between the two nations. Mr. Rumsfeld made no comment on India's warning to the U.S. not to sell fighter jets to neighboring Pakistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says Washington is committed to strengthening military ties with India. "The military-to-military and defense-to-defense relationship is a strong one and something we intend to see is further knitted together as we go forward in the months and years ahead," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld made his comments after meeting with his Indian counterpart, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, early Thursday. Neither official provided details of the meeting, which was expected to focus in part on the sale of U.S. military technology to India.

The Indians were not interested only in arms sales to themselves, however.

Hours after Mr. Rumsfeld arrived on Wednesday, India's foreign minister made a statement to the Indian parliament in which he warned that the U.S. should not sell high-technology weapons systems to India's neighbor, Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said doing so could trigger a renewed arms race between India and Pakistan, which are nuclear rivals, and have fought three wars. He also said military sales would have a negative impact on Washington's relationship with New Delhi.

The United States and Pakistan have discussed the possible sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan for years, although no decision has been made. Last month, the Pentagon separately notified the U.S. Congress of $1.2 billion in possible military sales to Pakistan, including eight P-3C Orion surveillance planes.

Mr. Rumsfeld's visit to India comes days after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited President George Bush in Washington. Mr. Rumsfeld was in the region to attend the inauguration ceremony earlier in the week of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.