New Delhi: Setting at
rest speculation that the US wants India to play a greater
military role in Afghanistan, visiting US Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta Wednesday said this would be confined to training the
country's security forces.
"What I have asked for is for India to continue to provide. I
understand the training takes place in India. I have asked, if
possible, to expand this training. Beyond this, nothing in terms
of additional military efforts," Panetta said during an
interactive session after delivering a lecture on India-US
relations at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).
He was responding to a question on whether, during his talks with
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, he had urged more
intensive Indian efforts in Afghanistan and whether he had made
any specific requests.
In Washington, Department of Defense spokesman Captain John Kirby
discounted reports that the US wanted India to step up its role in
"I think the reports have been slightly exaggerated," he told
reporters Tuesday when asked about media reports citing US
officials that Panetta, during his India visit, would encourage
India to take a more active role in Afghanistan.
"I don't believe the secretary asked them to impress them to do
more rather than expressed how much he appreciated the work they
were doing to help provide support in Afghanistan and some of the
things that they have expressed interest in continuing to do in
Afghanistan, but also in the region," Kirby said.
"And so I think it was really more a statement of appreciation for
everything they've done and the hope that they'll continue to stay
involved as a leader in the region."
To characterise Panetta's visit to "India as some sort of poke in
the chest to get them to do more would be to do his visit a
disservice," he said.
"That's not why he's in India," Kirby said. "He's in India to
thank them for their efforts at regional leadership and to look
for ways to deepen our defence cooperation with India and our
relationship with India. That is something he would like to do
"But we're very appreciative of India's efforts in the region and
in Afghanistan in particular," he added.