U.S. and India join forces
NEW DELHI, India -- India and the United States are to take part in joint military exercises in the latest sign that ties between the former Cold War foes are mending.
India, which has taken a diplomatic backseat to rival Pakistan since Islamabad's assistance to America following the September 11 terror attacks, will conduct the exercises in Alaska, according to Indian media reports.
This would be the first time Indian troops have taken part in an exercise in the United States, signaling a new level of co-operation between the two.
"Our troops and air force units will soon go to Alaska to do joint exercises. You wouldn't have thought about it (being possible) earlier," Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes told the Deccan Herald newspaper.
The decision to conduct the exercise comes during a tense military stand-off between Indian and Pakistani forces on their border that has raised fears of a fourth war between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been locked in a bloody confrontation since 1984 in the north of disputed Kashmir, the world's highest battlefield.
Tensions in South Asia have risen further since a suicide attack on the Indian parliament, with New Delhi blaming Kashmiri militants based in Pakistan for the attack. The two nuclear-armed nations have amassed their military along their common border.
A Pentagon Asia-Pacific command office spokesman in Hawaii has confirmed the decision.
"It looks like at some point in the future some soldiers from the Indian military will do some training at our mountain warfare center in Alaska, which specializes in cold weather warfare skills," the newspaper cited the U.S. official as saying.
The Indian official said the dates of the mountain-warfare exercise and the size of the Indian team were being worked out.
In a newspaper interview published on Thursday, Fernandes said the exercise would be useful for Indian troops as the climate and terrain in Alaska matches conditions in the icy Himalayan glacier region of Siachen.
Military ties between India and the United States -- once on opposite sides of the Cold War -- have expanded in the last year and India provided substantial logistical support to U.S. forces during their campaign in Afghanistan.
Top military officials have exchanged visits and Washington has agreed to resume sales of defense equipment that were banned under sanctions imposed after India's nuclear tests in 1998.
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