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U.S. lifts sanctions against India

India cehckpoint
Indian soldiers search pedestrians during a routine "cordon and search" operation in Srinagar to prevent possible Taliban entry  

NEW DELHI, India -- The United States has reversed sanctions it imposed on India for conducting nuclear tests in 1998 as a result of a strengthened bilateral cooperation to combat terrorism.

U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith said Washington has agreed to resume sales of arms to India and step up military cooperation, after two days of talks in New Delhi with Indian officials.

India's Foreign Ministry said a strengthened bilateral relationship between India and the United States was formed to counter international drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism, and threats such as the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

"Noting that both India and the United States have been targets of terrorism, the two sides agreed to add a new emphasis in their defense cooperation on counter-terrorism initiatives," a foreign ministry statement said.

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Washington is to allow the sale of some defense equipment, which had been banned under sanctions imposed after India conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

The decision may have been spurred by the possibility that the Taliban may choose Kashmir as their next battleground for a holy war.

Rumors have surfaced that bin Laden and his al Qaeda network could turn to Kashmir after being flushed out of Afghanistan.

"Kashmir has the potential for becoming the next focal point for Muslim militants throughout the world," says Ali Imran, a political analyst and columnist for the Kashmir Observer newspaper.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the 12-year insurgency in Kashmir, which resulted in India and Pakistan going to war twice over the territory.

India continues to lash out at Pakistan, accusing it of supporting Muslim separatist rebels who have been fighting its rule in the Himalayan region since late 1989.

Weapons and training

Under the agreement with the U.S., India can now acquire weapon-locating radars, engines and systems for a fighter jet program, radars, multi-mission maritime aircraft, components for jet trainers and high performance jet engines.

The two countries will also perform combined special operations training, ground and air exercises, naval personnel exchange and training exercises between U.S. Marines and their Indian counterparts.

Military officials of the two countries will also have regular high-level talks.

Ties between New Delhi and Washington have strengthened in recent years and India was one of the first nations to throw its support behind the U.S.-led campaign on terrorism.

Aware that India is key in its quest to bringing stability to South and Central Asia, Washington is eager to improve its military and diplomatic relationship with India.

The climate for cooperation improved sharply after Washington waived sanctions it imposed on India and Pakistan three years ago after the two-warring countries conducted a series of nuclear tests.

The economic sanctions included the termination of foreign aid and economic development assistance, except humanitarian assistance, and the prohibition of U.S. banks from extending loans or credits to the governments of India and Pakistan.

In addition, the United States terminated foreign military sales to the south Asian neighbors and revoked licenses for the commercial sale of items on the U.S. Munitions List.


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