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India's major defence partner tag deepens ties with US: Carter

By Lalit K Jha
August 30, 2016 16:54 IST
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Countering terrorism is an important objective shared by India and the United States, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Washington while appreciating American support in India's efforts to eliminate extremism in its neighbourhood.

"We resolved to continue our cooperation on counter-terrorism. Our open and diverse societies are committed to peace. However, as the United States has shown, there can be no compromise when we are faced with terrorism," Parrikar said at a joint news conference with US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday.

"The forces that seek to undermine our progress and our ways of life require our comprehensive and robust response. We appreciate the support from United States in our efforts to eliminate terrorism in India's neighbourhood," Parrikar said.

"Secretary Carter and I agreed that countering terrorism is an important shared objective. The partnership between India and the United States is driven by our shared values and interests. This was underlined by the enthusiasm of the US Congress with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year," Parrikar said.

Responding to a question, Carter said that not only Indian civilians but its military also has been a victim of terrorism, in an apparent reference to the terrorist attack on Pathankot military base, carried out by Pakistani intruders.

"Terrorism is one of the many missions on which we cooperate...We oppose terrorism affecting anyone and us. That's certainly true with respect to terrorist acts perpetrated against the Indian people, and also I should mention the Indian military, which has happened as well. And this gives new scope for that, as well," Carter said.

As per a joint statement issued after the meeting between the two leaders, they agreed to facilitate greater and regular interactions to deepen mutual understanding between military services and promote practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, special operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"We and India share the principled view that in matters of freedom of the seas and freedom of the commons and freedom of navigation, as in so many other matters, States need to take a principled view where abiding by the rule of law and pursuing disputes peacefully is fundamental. We are able to operate together," Carter said.

During the meeting Carter and Parrikar praised the discussions at the inaugural Maritime Security Dialogue held in May.

They welcomed the conclusion of the bilateral 'White Shipping' technical arrangement for data sharing on commercial shipping traffic.

They also discussed cooperation on capabilities to augment India's capacity for maritime domain awareness.

Acknowledging India's positive contributions to regional security and stability, including in matters beyond the maritime space, Carter and Parrikar announced their agreement to take forward consultations in this area, including through the next Maritime Security Dialogue, which will be held later this year.

They noted recent high-level official exchanges, including the visit of Gen John Nicholson to New Delhi for consultations on Afghanistan, as well as by the secretary of the US Navy and the secretary of the US Air Force earlier this month, the joint statement said.

Carter has said India's designation as a 'major defence partner' would allow the US to cooperate with it -- in both strategic and technological domains -- at par with its closet and most long-standing allies.

"First of all with respect to the major defence partnership agreement, that is a very substantial change. It's an enormous change from 50 years of history. And a very substantial advance over just a few months ago," Carter told Pentagon reporters.

"And here's the gist of it. It will allow the United States and India to cooperate, which speaking from the US point of view, in a way that we do only with our closest and most long-standing allies. That's a very big change," Carter said.

In June when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited US and met President Barack Obama, the country had designated India as a 'major defence partner'.

"The Indian government sent us before our meeting today a very lengthy, detailed and we thought very constructive paper about how to implement the major defence partnership understanding. That's an excellent basis for the implementation of the major defence partnership," he said.

The major defence partnership designation, has "knocked down" the previous barriers that came in the way of defence, strategic co-operation including co-production, co-development projects and exercises.

Appreciating the US government's decision, Parrikar said: "In our discussions today, we looked at how this could provide further energy and momentum to our partnership on defence technology and manufacturing. We agreed to continue efforts to establish an efficient framework to encourage tie-ups between our defence companies."

Parrikar said the US is one of India's primary sources of defence equipment, and while it has shared some of its cutting-edge platforms, he would like to take this forward to greater collaborative projects.

The two leaders, he said, decided to significantly expand the scope and activities of Defence Technology and Trade Initiative.

Carter said the designation builds on the success of last year's framework for the US-India defence relationship.

"It will facilitate defence, trade and technology sharing with India on a level we reserve only for our closest friends and allies, and it will support both of what I have called the two important handshakes between our countries and our two militaries," he said.

"The first is the strategic handshake. As the United States is reaching West in President Obama's rebalance, India is reaching East in Prime Minister Modi's Act East Policy, which will extend India's reach further into the broader Indo-Asia-Pacific region," he said.

The major defence partner designation will also tighten the second handshake between the two countries, the technological one, he said.

"Four years ago, the United States and India created the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, DTTI, to leverage the convergence between our industrial and technological abilities in an unprecedented way. That initiative grasps hands with Prime Minister Modi's Make in India campaign," he said.

"We made important progress on that technological partnership today, also. We agreed to advance a number of collaborative projects, on jet engine technology, chemical and biological protection, aircraft carriers and other systems; all by the end of the year. That collaboration will surely bring further cooperation, co-development and co-production," he added.

"And we're working together and networking with other Asia-Pacific militaries to provide the security and to promote the principles, including freedom of navigation and overflight, that have benefited so many in the region, including India," Carter said.

Spent more time with Parrikar than other counterparts: Carter

Carter said he has spent more time with Parrikar in little over an year than any of his other foreign counterparts, a relationship he attributed to "the new bonhomie" in India-US ties.

"Even before today's very productive discussion, which was our sixth meeting since I became Secretary of Defence, I had already spent more time with Minister Parrikar than I had with any other defence counterpart anywhere in the world,” said Carter.

Heaping praise on the defence minister, Carter said: "One (of the reasons) is Minister Parrikar himself. He's a strong and effective leader. He's an innovator. He's a great partner and a true friend."

"The second reason that Minister Parrikar and I spent so much time together is that the US-India relationship is destined to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," he said.

"We share so much, so many interests and values, as well as a common vision for peace, for stability and prosperity in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. As Minister Parrikar's busy itinerary and our extensive deliberations today demonstrate, that destiny is rapidly and surely becoming a reality," Carter said, soon after the two leaders concluded talks at the Pentagon.

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Lalit K Jha
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