India-UK plan joint military exercise

India and United Kingdom are likely to hold joint military exercises early next year.

    General Walker's visit is likely to cement India-UK military ties

    On a visit to Kashmir's provincial capital Srinagar, UK's Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Michael Walker said on Friday that joint exercises were an ideal way to keep pace with changing international situations.

    "We are indeed going to do some training together," General Walker said after a meeting with top Indian military officials.

    "We have agreed to run an exercise in February-March next year. It is a small exercise and involves some 200 people. It is essentially about command and control," he explained.

    His announcement came a day after US Special Forces and their Indian counterparts completed a three-week long joint exercises outside Leh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

    Indian accusations

    Indian generals in their meeting with the top British general briefed him about Pakistan's involvement in aiding violence in Kashmir.

    India accuses Islamabad of arming and abetting the Kashmiri fighters, a charge that Pakistan steadfastly denies, stating that it only extends political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri "freedom struggle."

    General Walker agreed that help for fomenting violence in Kashmir could be coming from across the border.

    "We have agreed to run an exercise in February-March next year. It is a small exercise and involves some 200 people"

    General Sir Michael Walker,
    UK's Chief of Defence Staff

    "I have had the case very strongly made that there is support for terrorism coming from across the border," the UK general said.

    "From everything that I have been hearing that seems to be case," he said.

    On a four-day visit to India, General Walker has already had talks with Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes and top officials on military relations.

    His visit comes just weeks after India awarded a billion-dollar deal for 66 air force training jets to British Aerospace.

    Pakistani reaction

    Pakistan meanwhile has criticised the just concluded joint US-Indian military exercises in Leh.

    "This is a territory disputed by neighbouring states so the exercises in the area are not helpful," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said.

    "It may fuel concerns in the neighbouring countries and I think it does not contribute to stabilisation of Asia and the region," the spokesman said.

    But Indian officials rejected the criticism as unwarranted.
    "These exercises are part of an ongoing process of interaction between the Indian army and the US," officials said. An earlier joint excercise was held in the US state of Alaska.

    Defence ties between Indian and the US, which were on opposite sides during the Cold War, have warmed since sanctions imposed after India's 1998 nuclear tests were lifted following September 11.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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