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US official in India to discuss defence, trade

Washington: Ahead of the Defence Policy Group meeting in Washington next month, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Andrew J Shapiro, is in India beginning Tuesday to hold a series of discussions with his

Indian counterparts on defence and trade related issues.

The State Department, in a statement, said Shapiro`s four day India visit is aimed at building on the achievements of the November trip of US President Barack Obama. "The visit`s agenda reflects the President`s initiative

to craft an indispensable partnership with India which will shape a secure and prosperous 21st century," the statement said.

His visit, accompanying Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, comes at a time when the US is seeking to increase significantly the volume and technological sophistication of US defence sales to India, the State Department said. Shapiro will also attend the Aero India 2011 air show and aviation exhibition in Bangalore, followed by meetings with senior civilian and military officials in New Delhi to discuss defence trade issues.

The officials will discuss maritime security and counter-piracy cooperation.

India has been an active participant in the 60-nation Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and joins the US among countries contributing naval forces to patrol regional waters.

The officials will also discuss support to international peacekeeping through the Global Peace Operations Initiative. At Aero India, Assistant Secretary Shapiro will meet with Indian defence officials and industry representatives,

who will be welcoming the arrival of the first of six C-130J aircraft under a recent USD 950 million purchase. The aircraft will provide the Indian Air Force with advanced strategic and humanitarian airlift capabilities. Two US companies are also currently competing for India`s USD 11 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender, the State Department said.

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