Prior to his visit to Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in India seeking a stronger defense partnership. India however has not obliged. Going with the non-alignment policy that the country has followed for decades, India says discussions are the only way forward.
When Leon Panetta call calling to New Delhi, everyone knew this won't be easy for India. With years of defense relationship, which has been mired by suspicion because of Pakistan, everyone wondered if India would bite the bullet of having a defense partnership with US in the Asia Pacific but that was not to be. Leon Panetta though made the reason for his visit to India very clear.
Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary, said, "Today, we have growing economic, social and diplomatic ties that benefit both of our nations, but for this relationship to truly provide security for this region and for the world, we will need to deepen our defense and security cooperation. This is why I have come to India."
India was the last country on Leon Panetta's Asia trip. At the start of the trip he had promised to enhance US presence in the Asia Pacific region. The change in strategy is being seen as an effort by United States to counter China’s dominance in the region but India has long resisted any military cooperation. Even if US and India are on the way warmer than earlier, but India is not ready for an alliance.
India is part of United States strategic shift towards Asia Pacific but India is treading every step cautiously and sticking with its non-alignment policy. Despite no agreement on a defense alliance, Leon Panetta said India's role in security in Asia is important and this includes Afghanistan.
Leon Panetta also said, "I urge India's leaders to continue with additional support to Afghanistan through trade, investment, reconstruction and help for Afghan security forces"
Leon Panetta met the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan singh, National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and defense minister AK Antony. Talks include defense issues and also remain of US troops killed in air crashes over north-eastern India during World War II. It was last year when US president Barack Obama called Asia-pacific region a top priorirty in its security policy but this trip was putting that policy into practice.