Brussels: Stepping up its efforts to woo India as a partner nation in a post-Cold War world, NATO says its fledgling relations with New Delhi are 'important' to ensure global safety and security.

“I think it is important to have a dialogue (with India) and deepen that dialogue,” US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo H. Daalder told a group of Indian journalists on a tour of the 28-nation military alliance's headquarters here.

“It is through dialogue, through understanding each other's perceptions and perhaps by working on misperceptions that may exist that we can strengthen the relations between India and NATO.

NATO was originally formed as a military alliance to counter Russia and the east European Warsaw Pact countries. It has undergone a sea-change after the end of the Cold War beginning with the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The alliance, which now includes many of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact countries, has an established dialogue with India, with its secretary general holding talks with Indian leaders in recent years and its deputy secretary general visiting New Delhi in 2010.

Daalder left it to India's political leadership to give a direction to the dialogue and relationship.

“Ultimately, the decision of what India's role with respect to NATO is going to be is India's decision...So the relationship that India wants with NATO is for India to decide,”  he said when asked about what he thought about the ties.

“Where this relationship will go will largely depend on where India would like it to go,”  he added.

The importance of the relationship, according to him, was that the concepts of national and international security of both India and the alliance were in consonance with each other.

“What I think is it is important for India and the countries of NATO and indeed of this alliance as an organisation to have a dialogue at every level...societal, opinion forming at official level.

“The dialogue should be on how India's concept of its own security and of international security fits in with NATO's concept of international security and how NATO as an actor and India as a country can work together to promote security,” he said.

Daalder cited the example of troubled Afghanistan, where India had committed $2 billion for development works and NATO is spearheading an international security forces operation, and the anti-piracy measures in the Indian Ocean, where the Indian Navy has an active role and NATO has a task force.

“We already do so (cooperate) in places like Afghanistan, where NATO has a presence and India has a presence. We can think about other places we may be doing that.

“We do it in the Indian Ocean, when we are dealing both with the scourge of piracy and we cooperate actively. There your ships are part of the effort to deal with pirates and NATO has an operation there,” he said.

Noting that NATO's relationship with other nations was not limited to the group's geographical area, Daalder said the alliance had relations with Australia, which is far away from Europe and the Americas.

“The NATO has relations with countries further away from where we are, like Australia. That relationship has evolved over time. That relationship was quite stand-offish until quite recently.

“Today, Australia is the 10th largest contributor to our operations in Afghanistan and a very active participant in the day-to-day operations,” he said, indicating that future ties with India for the alliance had a lot of potential.