US Def Sec arrives on two-day visit

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New Delhi, Feb 26 (UNI) Indo-US defence ties are set for a major boost with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates' arrival here today and his discussions with Indian leaders including Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Mr Gates arrived this afternoon on a two-day visit to India, possibly to press for some defence deals, strengthening the Defence ties between the two countries.

The visit, his first to India since assuming office on December 18, 2006, takes place in the last of the eight- year Bush Presidency that witnessed unprecedented acceleration in India-US engagement and qualitative transformation in their relationship, particularly in Defence.

An official spokesman said India and the US have a strong framework of defence cooperation established by the 2005 Defence Framework Agreement and a comprehensive institutional framework of exchanges.

''Secretary Gates' visit will give a further impetus to the ongoing Defence cooperation between our two countries. His visit reaffirms the importance of the Indo-US relations and the strong political support in the US for our strategic partnership. India also reiterates its interest in looking forward to broad-based defence ties with the US,'' the spokesman added During his stay, Mr Gates will meet National Security Advisor (NSA) M K Narayanan and Leader of Opposition L K Advani besides External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony.

UNI RB SKB RN1705

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