Defence cooperation deal makes India 'closest partner' of the US

Manmohan Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama shake hands during their media statements following a meeting at White House in Washington. (PTI)

Washington has placed New Delhi in the category of "closest partners" for defence cooperation, putting India on a par with the United States's closest allies like the United Kingdom when it comes to transfer of defence technology.

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This significant milestone was crossed on Friday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama endorsed a joint declaration on defence cooperation, which takes forward the 2005 framework agreement on defence.

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"The United States and India share common security interests and place each other at the same level as their closest partners. This principle will apply with respect to defence technology transfer, trade, research, co-development and co-production for defence articles and services, including the most advanced and sophisticated technology," the declaration said.

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It said the two countries would "improve" and "expedite" licence processes and approvals. "The US and India are also committed to protecting each other's sensitive technology information."

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It is reliably learnt that these are exactly the terms the US offers to its closest military allies. The word "partners" was used at India's instance as New Delhi did not want this to appear like a strategic alliance. India has dropped its insistence on not conducting multilateral military exercises involving the US by accepting to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise in Hawaii, the world's largest multilateral maritime exercise expected to involve nearly two dozen countries. Obama welcomed India's decision in the joint statement.

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