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Aziz Haniffa in Washington
A top Pentagon military officer acknowledged on Tuesday that the United States was aggressively seeking military-to-military ties with India.
Major General Bruce Scott, commander of the US Army's security assistance command, told reporters at the Foreign Press Centre in Washington that the Bush administration, as recent reports had said, was "trying to make inroads into relations with India, specifically".
"I am hopeful that progresses continue to be made in that direction," he said.
General Scott said that from his perspective, "the more militaries co-operate with each other, the less likely [it is that] we'll shoot at each other".
"So I am a big fan of co-operation in the military," he declared. "I am encouraged by what I am reading in the press that [US-India] relations are improving, and I'm hopeful to the future that we will have the opportunity to do more."
Asked how US military officers sent overseas for training with their counterparts in developing countries, which often do not have the same level of technological sophistication, could be beneficial, Scott said, "Let us not forget that in the business I'm in, in the US Army, it is -- at the end of the day, it's the soldier on the ground that makes the difference."
He added, "It is the quality of that military force that determines whether you're victorious or not when we must pay the ultimate price."
"So we are honoured to serve and attend schools overseas," Scott continued, "where we learn in many cases from our allies an ethos, a sense of professionalism, a sense of pride in their military that far outweighs any technology that we might bring. So I would agree that we are beneficiaries of that training and not vice versa."
Gen Scott acknowledged that the internal battles of the ever-increasing bureaucratic export controls regime had affected US foreign military sales [FMS] over the years and the regime's stringent criteria had, in effect, been counterproductive because other countries had gone ahead and developed whatever systems they were denied.
But in recent months, he said, the army for its part had been administering contracts far more quickly. "From the time now when we get a requirement, a legitimate requirement -- we call that an LOR -- till we actually write the FMS contract, the last nine months we've been averaging 24 days." This, he said, was a reduction of two-thirds from the time taken two years ago.
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