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'A lot moves on the world's oceans'

How far are we from realising this? Are there obstacles to these efforts?

One of the obstacles is that there is a lot that moves on the world's oceans. There are many different ways that each country uses to maintain their vessels.

So some of the obstacles are how do you come up with common methods and protocols and ultimately systems of doing this. In maritime security the one thing that all of us have to be mindful of is the issue of sovereignty and a full importance of the importance of that sovereignty.

And then working with our partner nations in this endeavour to ensure that there is no sense or perception that any individual nation's sovereignty is being threatened. And that we have worked out the protocols of how to hand out the information, how to come to an agreement that yes, we are seeing things in the same way. And that will take some time.

Given that India uses Warsaw Pact equipment while you use American, or NATO issue, were there any equipment mismatches in the recent exercises that you conducted with the India?

Our exercises with the Indian navy went off very very effectively. In this case, it's not a question of Warsaw pact or US equipment, but one area that is important when it comes to inter-operability is how do you move information back and forth.

What the individual ships and airplanes see, how they process that information, and then how their systems are used to react to that information, that is something, while not a problem, but how do we mate the information together between the two systems, and between the units that are operating, that's a challenge.

It's not a question of Warsaw Pact or US systems, it's that we have not operated (these) many times in extensive ways, that is increasing now. So how do we begin this information exchange process and what type of equipment do we want both to use to do that. That equipment must take into account the needs and desires of each country.

At some point, we need to get the information sharing systems connected and talking to one another, and I think that is something that can be done relatively easily once the proper agreements are in place and each country is aware of how certain pieces of information can be protected.

That's not unique to the Indian and US navies, that's the case with all navies.

I find it intriguing that China has kept out of the July discussions on how to keep the Malacca Straits safe - - there is America, Russia, South Korea, Australia, Japan and India. Why is China being kept out of it?

Quite frankly, I am not aware of the particulars. I would submit that that discussion is taking place and is headed by someone other than our navy and our department of defence, so I defer on that.

Image: Captain of the Indian aircraft carrier INS Viraat S P S Cheema (left) and Commodore John Smith of the US navy address a press conference on the India-US naval exercise off the Goa coast, September 28, 2005. Photograph: Sebastian D'Souza/AFP/Getty Images

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