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Pentagon says US special forces in India; Delhi denies

Saturday March 03, 2012 08:23:07 AM, IANS

Washington/New Delhi: The US special forces are based in India and four other South Asian countries, a Pentagon commander has said. But India promptly denied it, saying Washington has neither sought nor has India approved stationing of US Special Forces personnel in the country.

The US and India are working together to contain Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar--Taiba, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attack.

US has forces in five South Asian nations including India, US Pacific Commander Admiral Robert Willard told a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

The teams were deployed to help India in counter-terrorism, in particular in the maritime domain, Willard said.

"We have currently special forces assist teams - Pacific assist teams is the term - laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives as well as India," Willard said.

"We are working very closely with India with regard to their counter-terrorism capabilities and in particular on the maritime domain but also government to government, not necessarily department of defence but other agencies assisting them in terms of their internal counter-terror and counterinsurgency challenges."

The Indian government challenged the statement.

"The US Government has neither sought nor has the Government of India approved stationing of US Special Forces personnel in any capacity in India," Syed Akbaruddin, the external affairs ministry spokesperson, said.

"The two countries occasionally conduct short duration Special Forces exercises in India and the US in the context of their counter-terrorism cooperation and capacity building," he added.

The defence ministry said Willard's claim that US special teams were based in India was "factually incorrect".

"The report is factually incorrect in so far as the reference to India is concerned," a defence ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi. "US special forces teams have never been stationed in India in the past, nor are such teams stationed in the country presently," he said.

Admiral Willard said Lashkar-e-Taiba was a "very dangerous organisation... so it is a very important threat, and we're working very closely with the nations in the region to help contain it".

The group was "responsible for many attacks in India, including the horrific attacks into Mumbai" of November 2008 that left 166 Indians and foreigners dead.







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