Transfer of warships to India: US says many options on table

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New Delhi, Mar 28 (UNI) The United States today said many options were on table regarding transfer of more amphibious ships to India, but asserted that there were no discussions on specific vessel transfer.

Briefing the media at the conclusion of his two-day visit to India, US Navy Secretary Donald Winter said he met Indian naval leadership and discussed issues of common interest.

He said the two sides discussed maritime security issues in the Indian Ocean with the thrust being on looking and finding ways to meet the challenges the two navies were facing.

Mr Winter said measures to enhance the maritime security besides other issues of concern came up at discussions between the two sides.

He said the two navies shared common challenges such as fighting pirates, preventing terrorists from using the sea, checking narcotics trade and arms proliferation on the seas.

''We need to exchange data regarding legitimate as well as not so legitimate ships in the waters. Our objective is to support nations in terms of providing maritime security in their domain.

''As world's 90 per cent trade happens through sea, all the countries have to ensure that possible steps are taken to deal with any challenges to the sea commerce. We are pleased that India has taken several measures in terms of maritime security.'' Mr Winter, who visited the Western Naval Command headquarters in Mumbai and the Navy's shipbuilding facility at Mazgaon Docks (MDL) yesterday, said the two navies would share and transfer specific information regarding the maritime security.

During his meetings with the officials here, he said the recent Malabar exercises were briefly touched upon.

''The exercises were well conducted. But, there were no specific commitments at the discussions,'' he added.

Secretary Winter also said though there were no discussions on specific ships transfer, many options were on the table.

He said some low-level dialogue was going on over the amphibious ships, but there were no discussions regarding the aircraft carrier.

''We are open to discussions on the lines,'' Mr Winter added.

He also touched upon the controversy surrounding the purchase by the Indian Navy of a former US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Trenton (re-designated INS Jalashwa) which experienced a fatal accident last month, killing six sailors.

''There are no unique terms or language associated with its transfer. The agreement does not limit the use of ship by that language. We believe it was conducted it in appropriate manner.'' The Comptroller and Auditor General's report had also criticised the 2007 purchase of the ship.

Secretary Winter arrived in India after his three-day visit to Israel. He also visited the Indian Navy's Maritime Operations Centre and the headquarters of the Defence Research and Development Organisation here.

His visit comes a month after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates toured India.

A US Embassy press release had said the purpose of Secretary Winter's visit was to discuss mutual security interests such as the war on terrorism, piracy, maritime security and shipbuilding.

''It is hoped that this engagement will continue to develop and strengthen our long-term bilateral relationship with India,'' the release added.

UNI AG KD KP1949

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