LeT to turn attention to India after US withdraws from Afghanistan: Pentagon

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Washington, April 16: Pakistan-based terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are likely to turn their attention to India with the drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan, a top Pentagon commander told lawmakers today.

"Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other Pakistan-based groups continue fighting in Afghanistan, but they will likely shift some of their operational focus to the Indian subcontinent in the next one to three years as coalition forces draw down," Admiral Samuel J Locklear Commander, US Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee.

In his testimony, Locklear said with new leadership in place, India is energising the US-India strategic partnership.

"Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has focused India's foreign policy on building strong regional cohesion in South Asia. India's two decade-long 'Look East Policy' has resulted in growing partnerships with Southeast Asian countries," he said.

The US military remains heavily engaged with India's military, having conducted 69 major exercises in the past five years.

The Indian Navy continues its strong participation in multilateral exercises including INDRA with Russia, MALABAR with the US and Japan, and RIMPAC with 23 navies from across the Indo-Asia-Pacific, he added.

India's participation in these exercises signals its commitment as a regional security provider.

Additionally, over the past three years the US has been India's largest defence trading partner.

"Through military modernisation, robust defence trade (C-17s, C-130Js, and P-8Is, among other items), and a growing network of defence partnerships, India is asserting its role as an important regional actor determined to protect common interests and ensure free access to economically vital sea lanes, although with respect to military activities, India still asserts a security interest in its EEZ that does not conform to the law of the sea," Locklear said.

In her testimony, Christine Wormuth, Undersecretary of Defence, said US-India relationship is one of America's most exciting and dynamic partnerships.

"Just this past January, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi signed a new Joint Vision Statement. We also signed the first update in a decade to our bilateral Defence Framework, which will allow us to expand our relationship into exciting new areas, such as maritime security cooperation," she said.

"Through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), we are also pursuing cutting-edge collaborations in research and development and in defence technology," she said.

"During President Obama's visit in January, we agreed to our first four 'pathfinder' co-development and co-production projects. This is the type of work we undertake with few other countries, and it demonstrates the seriousness we attach to the US-India defence relationship," Wormuth said.

PTI

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