The US is clearly a little wary about the stand the new Indian government will take on the Bush administration's controversial missile defence plans.
Indicating a wait-and-watch policy, visiting US under secretary for defence policy Douglas J Feith on Tuesday said it was "premature" to get the new UPA government to give "definite answers" on the "complex" missile defence issue.
But, he added, the US had renewed its offer to India to move ahead on cooperation in joint defence projects, including missile defence. "We discussed the issue with the new Indian leadership as both the countries are facing serious missile threats. If India wants to go ahead with cooperation on missile defence, we will be happy to work with India ," he said.
Congress and its allies, especially the Left, had criticised the previous NDA government when it had promptly pledged support to the US missile defence plan. The UPA's common minimum programme, in fact, promises to strike a balance between the engagement with US and an "independent foreign policy".
Feith, in town for the Indo-US defence policy group (DPG) meeting, said it was for the Indian government to decide the level of engagement with America in defence ties, including joint military exercises.
"The exercises have proved very useful for both sides," said Feith, asserting that the two countries had made significant movement in defence trade and exchange of information on hi-tech weapons systems.
Feith denied that the request for Indian troops for Iraq was renewed during the discussions. Iraq will, "in a few weeks", get its own sovereign authority for governance, which will then itself decide such questions, he added.
Asked whether America had any reservations about India 's strong ties with Iran , Feith alleged Teheran was "a problem" for the US and the world in general with its nuclear weapons programme and support to terrorism.