Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

India-US 'missile shield talks'

A ground-based interceptor is test launched in California (Image: Missile Defense Agency)
The paper said Indian officials had attended live missile tests

India has been holding initial talks with the US over the possible purchase of a missile defence shield system, the UK's Financial Times has reported.

The talks have been going on for some time and the paper quoted the US embassy in Delhi as saying they were on a scientific and technical level.

Such a move would be sure to infuriate nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

US plans to set up a defence shield in Europe have caused a massive diplomatic rift with Russia.

The system in Europe, as well as one in the US, involves radar and anti-missile missiles, or interceptors, which would try to destroy incoming ballistic missiles.

Nuclear deal

The FT said Indian officials had been shown computer simulations and had attended live missile tests.

For the past many years, we have been considering the possibility of such an outcome one day
Senior Pakistani official

It quoted a US embassy official as saying: "India is a partner of ours, and we want to provide it with whatever it needs to protect itself.

"This fits into the overall strategic partnership we are building."

The paper said no decision had been made by Delhi on the purchase of foreign systems.

It also quoted a senior Pakistani official as saying Islamabad would "have to take counter-measures to respond".

"For the past many years, we have been considering the possibility of such an outcome one day," the official told the FT.

The US announced in December it had successfully tested its missile defence system in Alaska.

The US says it wants to introduce the system to Europe, using Poland and the Czech Republic to counter missiles from "rogue" states like Iran.

Russia sees the system as a direct threat and has vowed to deploy missiles to "neutralise" the US shield.

India and the US have been forging closer defence and economic ties recently.

In October they signed a civilian nuclear co-operation accord to end 34 years of US sanctions.

India gains access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian, but not military, nuclear facilities.

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