US officials arrive to promote defence pact

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New Delhi, Dec 15 (UNI) Ahead of the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates' visit to India early next year, some key officials of the US Department of Defense have arrived in the Capital to ''sensitise'' opinion on the Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) facing strong opposition from the Left parties here.

The LSA is designed to give Indian and US ships and aircraft access to each others' facilities, such as ports and airfields, for refuelling and refurbishment through a barter system.

''There is misunderstanding about the LSA...,'' a senior US official told reporters here last evening.

The LSA, which has been vetted by the Headquarters of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, has been pending with the Cabinet Committee on Security for more than eight months following opposition from the Left parties.

The Left suspects that the LSA will give US warships and aircraft unfettered access to Indian military installations and turn India into a ''subordinate ally''.

''This is not acccurate...,'' the official said.

On the US Defence Secretary's Delhi agenda, he said Mr Gates would visit India early next year, but no dates had been fixed yet.

Various bilateral, regional and global issues would be discussed during the visit, he said.

Emphasising friendly relations with India, he said: ''All sorts of things that are talked among friends will come up for discussion during the visit.'' Mr Gates is expected to draw India into a closer relationship with US military and armament companies.

His visit would be preceded by visits of several senior US officials to persuade India to sign the Access and Cross Servicing Agreement that allows the two militaries to source supplies from each other and settle the account later.

''When we cooperate, the idea is to make things easier,'' the official said.

UNI

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