May 19, 2012

Panetta to seal Apache deal during June 6 visit

Exactly a week before Indo-US strategic dialogue in Washington, US defence secretary Leon Panetta is coming to the Capital on June 6 to discuss long term defence cooperation and seal the big ticket $1.4 billion worth sale of 22 Apache Longbow attack helicopters to India.

Government sources said Panetta will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his Indian counterpart AK Antony as well as other senior leaders of the UPA government. Principal deputy assistant secretary of defence Dr Peter Lavoy was in Dehi today and briefed India about the Nato summit in Chicago on Afghanistan.
Secretary Panetta during his day long visit will share Pentagon's perception of political developments in China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, his main focus is going to be post 2014 scenario in Afghanistan after America withdraws from Kabul.
Both India and US are committed to a long term commitment to Afghanistan in order to have stablility in the regional neighbourhood. Panetta will be flying into India after attending the Shangri La dialogue in Singapore.
While the defence secretary will discuss long term defence cooperation with India, he will  also ensure that the Apache deal is sealed during his visit. Pursued by India for the past two years, the Apache 64D II is possibily the best attack helicopter and has had a proven record in Iraq and Afghanistan operations. As of now, the two sides are trying to close the offsets part of the deal.
Terrorism is also going to be on the agenda for the bilateral talks with Panetta. A key player of Obama administration and a former CIA chief, he may also share the inside information about the US operation that took out Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan last May.

Hindustan Times

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