New Delhi/Islamabad: Indo-US talks on the supply of a missile shield system may have progressed further to a technical level interaction, according to a report in UK newspaper the Financial Times, which quoted unidentified officials at the US embassy in New Delhi as its source. The report takes on added significance in the light of ongoing tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in the aftermath of a massive terrorist attack on India's financial centre Mumbai.
Officials at the US embassy in New Delhi told the Financial Times that technical level talks had taken place between officials of two countries and that US defence officials had conducted computer simulations with their Indian counterparts to demonstrate the capabilities of such technology.
The report also pointed out that Indian scientists from the country's premier defence R&D establishment, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had also watched two live launches of missiles used in the system.
If true, then the development adds further impetus to the increasing strategic proximity of these two nations which have just concluded a path-breaking civil nuclear deal. The nuclear deal not only served to bring India out of decades-old nuclear isolation but also put the United States in a favourable position with the Indian strategic establishment. The two nations have been at odds with each other ever since the onset of the 'Cold War' and have only lately begun to engage each other closely with the path breaking nuclear deal.
''India is a partner of ours, and we want to provide it with whatever it needs to protect itself,'' one US embassy official was quoted by the paper as having said. ''This fits into the overall strategic partnership we are building.''
It also quoted Pakistani officials as saying that the country ''will have to take counter- measures to respond'' to any agreement between the US and India over a missile defence system.
It said, however, that India's politicians and defence planners were yet to take a final decision on whether to buy any foreign missile shield systems. ''I get the impression the scientists are quite interested, and that some in the strategic policy community . . . see this as a future tool in their kit bag,'' another US official said. ''But India's political leadership and its strategic community need to decide what their interests and threats are.''
The country is already working on an indigenous missile defence shield system and Indian scientists have long claimed that their missiles and defence shield would be far more capable than the Patriot system offered by Lockheed to them at the fag end of 2006.
(Also See: India crosses the ballistic missile threshold / Ballistic Missile Defence: India's initial high-speed interceptor missile tests successful )