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India, US can announce major pacts in intelligence, fighter: Official

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NEW DELHI (PTI): The US is more than just another defence equipment supplier to India and the two sides can announce major pacts in areas such as intelligence, surveillance and fighter aircraft production next year, newly appointed Ambassador Kenneth Juster said Thursday.

Cooperation with India on defence and counter-terrorism to enhance the long-term stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region is a key pillar, he said.

In his first public speech after taking over as the ambassador in November, he said an equally important objective is to continue support to India as a net provider of regional security, "capable of responding successfully to threats to peace", especially in the Indian Ocean and its vicinity.

The combination of goals of India's interest in technology and engaging in co-development and co-production of military equipment and the US' interest in safeguarding information and technology is in increasing the interoperability of the forces of the two countries, he said.

"With that in mind, perhaps in the next year we can announce major agreements enabling cooperation in areas such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; fighter aircraft production and co-development of next generation systems, including a Future Vertical Lift platform or Advanced Technology Ground Combat Vehicles," Juster said.

India and the US had in 2016 signed the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement to give their militaries access to each other's facilities for supplies and repairs.

Another way to step up defence cooperation, he said, is through military exchanges.

"Over time, the two sides should expand officer exchanges at our war colleges and our training facilities, and even at some point post reciprocal military liaison officers at our respective combatant commands," the ambassador said.

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