Panetta: India a key partner from Afghanistan to Asia-Pacific.

Indian army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1 Gorkhas Rifles take…

Indian army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1 Gorkhas Rifles take up security positions outside a simulated combat town during training exercises at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 12, 2008, as part of Exercise Shatrujeet 2008. The combined arms exercise conducted by U.S. forces and members of the Indian army is designed to share knowledge and build interoperability for possible future operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kevin N. McCall) (Released)

“Secretary Panetta underscored the link India plays between East and West Asia and how the United States views India as a net provider of security from the Indian Ocean to Afghanistan and beyond,” acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little said.

The relationship between India and the United States has improved and expanded dramatically since 2001, when the U.S. lifted economic sanctions it had placed on India in 1998 for performing underground nuclear tests. For example, the U.S. has sold about $8.5 billion worth of military arms to India in the last 11 years, according to defense officials, and the American military now performs several joint military exercises with India.

The Pentagon also hopes India and Pakistan will work together more closely on the shared goal of a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.

Source: Jennifer Hlad for Stars and Stripes.

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