Pentagon confirms missile defense contacts with India but denies sales talks

Launch of an Agni III Strategic Ballistic Missile in India.(Photo:Bharat)

10:09 GMT, January 9, 2009 -- The U.S. Department of Defense has had ancient contacts with India on missile defense issues but is not in talks to sell it, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Upton said to AFP. "The United States and India currently are not discussing the sale of any US missile defense systems to India," he said.

The Financial Times, citing US embassy officials in New Delhi, said the Pentagon was in preliminary talks about sales of US missile shield systems to guard New Delhi against nuclear threats.

A U.S. defense official described the interaction with the Indians as being on "a very elementary and technical level." "We have invited them to observe two tests this year to facilitate discussions of the two countries' ballistic missile defense test programs," the official said. U.S. defence officials had conducted computer simulations with their Indian counterparts to demonstrate the capabilities of such technology.

But the official said the invitation was extended with the understanding that it did not signal "U.S. intention or willingness to sell the systems involved."

On Wednesday Financial Times reported that the Indian government is in preliminary talks to buy U.S. missile shield systems to protect the country against a nuclear threat.

New Delhi is looking to the US as it seeks to modernise military equipment. This week India announced the $2.1billion (€1.5billion) acquisition of eight Boeing surveillance aircraft to patrol its coastline, its largest purchase of military hardware from a US company. ( Christian Windeck @ Defro)

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