Washington: India’s aspiration to maintain its strategic autonomy is a hindrance in its defence ties with the United States, a top Pentagon official has said.

"India's historic leadership of the non-alignment movement and desire to maintain strategic autonomy somewhat constrain cooperation at a level USPACOM (US Pacific Command) desires," the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) Commander Admiral Robert Willard said in his testimony before House Armed Services Committee.

"The US-India relationship remains challenged by a degree of suspicion fueled by Cold War-influenced perceptions, complicated Indian political and bureaucratic processes, and the US-Pakistan relationship," Willard said.

But, he noted there was significant advancement in Indo-US military relationship in areas like counter-terrorism and disaster management.

Relations with both India and Pakistan are vital to US national interests and cannot be addressed in isolation.

"To that end, the leadership and staffs of United States Central Command and USPACOM continue to engage in order to ensure a coordinated strategic approach that best meets US
interests," he said.

Extremism challenge in South Asia

Expressing concern over the increasing influence of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits, especially Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Williard said "violent extremism" is among the most pervasive and urgent challenges in South Asia.

"Violent extremism are associated with a wide-range of activities, which include supporting insurgencies that seek political autonomy and fomenting conflict between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan as a means of spreading radical Islamic ideology," the US Pacific Command Commander (USPACOM) Admiral Robert Willard, said in his testimony before
House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Willard said this "violent extremism is among the most pervasive and urgent challenges in South Asia."

US with Asian nations to check extremism

In South Asia, he said the US is endeavoring to work with Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and the nation of India to contain Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani based extremist
organisation that is already established in South Asia and was responsible for the attack in Mumbai.

"In order to accomplish that, we've been working very closely with the office of the Secretary of Defence in ensuring that we have adequate resources, including authorities to be able to accomplish that mission," he told Congressmen in response to a question.

"The South Asian sub-region is dominated by India, an emerging US strategic partner, and also includes Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan," he said.

"USPACOM is keenly aware of the threat posed by this terrorist organisation and continues to develop a coordinated multi-national and US inter-agency approach to address this global threat," he said adding that USPACOM force posture in South Asia is relatively limited, even though this sub-region is significant and faces various challenges.