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India dismisses US Admiral's proposal for joint patrolling

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India has dismissed the possibility of joint maritime patrolling with other countries in the Asia Pacific region, days after a top American military commander hoped it will happen in the near future.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that India is in for joint military exercise but not for joint patrolling.

"As of now, India has never participated in joint patrolling. But we do participate in joint exercise. So the question of joint patrolling at this stage does not arise," he said addressing reporters at South Block on Friday.

He was asked a question on the remarks made by Chief of US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris. The American commander had pitched for a quad-lateral security dialogue among India, Japan, Australia and the US even as he hoped joint patrolling in the Asia Pacific region will happen in the future.

Harris had hoped that in "not too distant future", American and Indian Navy vessels steaming together will become "a common and welcome sight" throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific waters.

"I don't respond to what the US Admiral has said. Our viewpoint will come to you if we at all consider any such thing from our side. It may be his calibrated thinking," Parrikar said.

He said that the government and the Defence Ministry will take all decisions in the interest of the country.

While the US is keen that India joins them in joint patrolling, the Indian government is conscious of not drawing itself into a tussle between the US and China.

Meanwhile, asked if India would sign the long-pending Logistics Support Agreement with the US, the minister said that anything that will be done would be in the interest of the country.

"It has to benefit the nation on various counts. We definitely would say that this government is very active on almost everything. We don't like to unnecessarily delay things. So we definitely do paper work, discussions are going on many things," Parrikar said.

Defence sources have told PTI that India and the US could sign a key military logistics agreement as top officials from the two sides meet in New Delhi in April to look at ways to deepen the bilateral ties in the critical sector.

They have said one of the key areas of focus during the visit of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to India in April will be three contentious agreements that Washington has been pushing for long.

Known as the "foundational agreements", these pacts are -- Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

"Discussions are on. Logistics agreement, tweaked as per India's interests, is doable and may be signed. However, some more discussions are to be held on BECA," the sources have said, adding that CISMOA needs detailed discussions and clarifications.

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