Admiral Samuel J Locklear III, Commander of the US Pacific Command, has not ruled out militants fighting in Afghanistan today switching their attention back to Kashmir post-US and NATO withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, and expressed concern over the recent terrorist attacks across the Line of Control that has exacerbated tensions between India and Pakistan.
Briefing media persons at the Foreign Press Centre, Locklear said, ‘Certainly, I am always concerned about any border tensions of any kind or tensions between any nations within my area of responsibility, even those that border it.’
‘And particularly the relationship between India and Pakistan is one that I think has a long history; that has the opportunity to continue to move forward in a positive way.’
Thus, he argued, ‘And that border clashes, I think either country would say that it is not in the best security interests for those to continue, particularly if they want to move into the 21st century.’
However, Locklear acknowledged, ‘Now the question on where terrorists will transit following any major exercise I think is a question beyond my ability as PACOM commander to tell you where that would happen.’
But he assured that ‘I will tell you though that across the region, with all of our allies, with a preponderance of our partners and our emerging partners, we have a pretty robust dialogue about how we understand the flow of terrorism, how we will work together to manage the flow of that terrorism, and we’re thinking about it more and more each day.’
‘And this includes our dialogue with our partners both in India and in Pakistan,’ he added.
Meanwhile, Locklear said that the Indo-US joint statement following the recent summit between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on furthering joint defence cooperation between both countries was not simply significant but music to his ears since ‘it outlined clearly the direction that we want to go together.’
He noted that ‘I had been given -- we had been given in the Defence Department some direction from the Administration, I think last year, on how we should start working and working our plans to develop a longer-term strategic relationship with our Indian partners. It is good for the security of the region; it is good for our own national interest; it is good, I think, for Indian national interest.’
Locklear added, ‘And now we have had growing military-to-military coordination for some time,’ including the Malabar exercises that have been going on for over a decade.
He pointed out, ‘We do similar types of things across other branches of the service as well, and those are, quite productive and I believe they’re growing’
Locklear, also referring to the Defence Trade Initiative, also called the Carter-Menon Initiative, referring to the protagonists behind it -- Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter and India’s National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon -- said, ‘We’re also looking at ways that we can pursue together some -- maybe some joint ventures or joint sharing of the ways we go forward on military -- some of the military equipment that we might build together.’
‘So we are looking forward to a growing relationship [to] build a military-to-military with the Indian military,’ he said.
In his opening remarks before the interaction with the media, Locklear who had come to brief on US Security Review in the Asia-Pacific region, said, in his AOR, ‘there are two of the three largest economies in the world (China and India), and seven of the 10 smallest, two of the most populated nations in the world, and the smallest republic.’
Consequently, he asserted, ‘The Asia Pacific is the engine that drives the global economy. There is $8 trillion of two-way trade in this region and 50 percent of the world’s cargo trade moves in this part of the world. And 70 percent of all the ship-borne energy assets move in this region every day.’
‘It’s also the most militarized part of the world. Seven of the world’s 10 largest-standing armies are in this part. The world’s largest and most sophisticated navies are here, and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations are in this area of responsibility.’
Locklear said the challenges were immense in this region and besides severe weather patterns and natural disasters that impact potentially the largest population in the world in a given region, it was compounded by ‘transnational threats from terrorism to drug trafficking to illegal activity to human trafficking and slave trafficking.’
‘There are historic and emerging territorial disputes that you’re all very familiar with and there will be a continued growing competition for water and food and energy as the region grows. And of course, there is instability on the KoreanPeninsula that continues.’
Locklear also said, ‘The rise of China, the rise of India in how they play as global economic and regional military powers is being determined as we speak. And there is no single governance mechanism in this vast region to manage all the security relationships.’
Thus, he reiterated, ‘There are many complex bilateral, multilateral, growing multilateral relationships that have to be contemplated.’
Image: Admiral Samuel J Locklear III