New Delhi: India and US on Saturday discussed wide-ranging defence cooperation and expanding military-to-military engagement across services, information sharing, collaboration in emerging sectors, and mutual logistics support to realise the full potential of their Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership to uphold a rules-based international order and promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held comprehensive talks with visiting US Secretary of Defense James Lloyd Austin and agreed that there are also opportunities for collaboration in defence industry.
“I invited US industry to take advantage of India’s liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) policies in the defence sector,” said Singh. The US has designated India as a Major Defence Partner.
The defence minister conveyed his appreciation to Secretary Austin for US participation in Aero India 2021 along with a business delegation.
Singh said he and Austin reviewed the wide gamut of bilateral and multilateral exercises and agreed to pursue enhanced cooperation with the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command.
“Acknowledging that we have in place the foundational agreements, LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA, we discussed steps to be taken to realise their full potential for mutual benefit,” he said.
Singh said the recent Leaders’ Summit of India, USA, Japan and Australia under the Quad framework emphasized our resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. “We discussed the need for enhanced capacity building to address some of the non-traditional challenges such as oil spills and environment disasters, drug trafficking, Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, etc”.
The minister said India is committed to further consolidate our robust defence partnership with the United States. “I look forward to working with you closely to make the India-US relationship one of the defining partnerships of 21st century.”
On arrival on Friday, Austin had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
“Great meeting with National Security Advisor Doval last night. The breadth of collaboration between our two nations reflects the significance of our Major Defense Partnership as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region,” Austin said in a tweet.
Austin in his talks commended the Indian leaders on their growing roles in the Indo-Pacific region and the growing engagement they have with like-minded partners across the region to promote shared goals, the US Defense Department said in a statement.
Secretary Austin’s stop in India continues the Biden-Harris administration’s outreach to revitalise ties with partners and allies. India is the third country Austin has visited on his first overseas trip. He met with Japanese officials March 15-16 and South Korean leaders March 17-18. On his way to India,
“The purpose of this stop in India is consistent with the themes of the overall trip, which are focused on building U.S. partnerships across the region and operationalizing the defense partnership the U.S. has with India,” the statement quoted a senior US defence official as saying.
The defense partnership has grown over the years. In 2008, there was no defense trade between the two countries. Last year, India bought $20 billion in defence capabilities from the US.
The partnership is based on a convergence of strategic interests that the US has with India. “We’re increasingly looking at how we can build on the U.S.-India partnership with other like-minded partners,” the official said. “It’s how we can network and build our partnerships with India and with other partners, whether it’s in the Indian Ocean or in the Pacific Ocean.”
Multinational actions are key to this. “The secretary is looking to … to reinforce the partnership that we have with India and to encourage India’s leading role in security across the Indo-Pacific region,” the official said.
DOD also wants to advance interoperability with Indian forces and look for ways to work together. The convergence of ideas includes freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce and the peaceful resolution of disputes. These converging strategic interests are the basis for cooperation, the official said.
“So whether it’s your information-sharing on maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean region or looking at maritime security or potentially even building partner-capacity across the Indo-Pacific region, that’s how you network, and that’s how you build,” the official said. “You are helping to pool resources and help to distribute … the burden — it helps to lighten the load for everybody to carry,” the official said.