India-US Relationship Stronger Than It Has Ever Been: Pentagon Officials – News18

Last Updated: March 21, 2024, 10:41 IST
Washington D.C., United States of America (USA)
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Indian Army Chief Manoj Pande and US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti, during the launch of the INDUS-X Joint Prize Challenge in October last year.
The relationship between India and the United States has been growing and is stronger than it has ever been, America’s top Defence Department officials have told lawmakers with an influential Congressman noting that New Delhi is a swing vote because of its ties with Russia.
Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely S. Ratner told members of the House Subcommittee on Indo-Pacific on Wednesday that the US has been strengthening its relationship with India across a number of areas. “I would describe the US-India relationship as growing and stronger than it has ever been and absolutely essential to our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“We have been strengthening a number of areas across the relationship including in co-production, where we’ve made some major strides on jet engines, some new projects on armoured vehicles to integrate our defence industrial base, which is one important way to make those bonds all the stronger,” Ratner said in response to a question from Ranking Member Adam Smith. “I see them as a crucial, I wouldn’t partner certainly, but also a little bit of a swing vote in that they have a relationship, certainly with Russia. They have relationships, across the world with many of our adversaries. Getting them to work with us more going forward I think is crucial to meeting our needs,” Smith said.
He asked Ratner how he would describe the US’ relationship with India and what was needed to strengthen it. “We’ve been working at the department to strengthen the relationships between our private sectors, particularly in defence technologies, and we have some really important new initiatives to be doing that. Admiral Aquilino has been leading a number of important exercises and operations with the Indians that are enhancing our operational coordination,” Ratner said. “Our defence trade now is valued at over USD 20 billion and India recently announced their decision to acquire over 30 MQ9Bs and BS. That’s part of a growing defence relationship between our countries that couldn’t be more important,” the defence department official said.
Navy Adm. John Aquilino, Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, who also testified, said America has many overlapping interests with the largest democracies of the world, even though it doesn’t always have the same interests. “Military to military, we have been executing much more increased operations and exercises together. They are working towards becoming more interoperable. They’ve bought our helicopters, they have C-130s, as we do, and we continue to expand both bilaterally and multilaterally our actions and exercises with them,” he said.
Smith then asked about BRICS, of which India is a key partner with Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa. “How do you feel the calculation, because the biggest alarm bell in all of this is the BRICS countries, which obviously includes Russia and China, but India is a big part of that. “So, they’re working in that relationship, which is challenging in and of itself. But when those BRICS countries decided to allow Iran to join them, what do you think India’s calculation is in terms of, …I understand a little bit Russia and China, but why would India be part of empowering Iran in that way,” Smith asked.
Replying to the question, Ratner said, “Part of India’s strategic identity, as you know, as a member of the Global South, they aspire toward an international system based on a principle of multipolarity, and that is reflected in part of their foreign policy. But on balance, they have been trending towards strategic convergence with the United States. We do share a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we’re going to do whatever we can to nurture and advance that part of their orientation.” In his testimony, Aquilino said a strong US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is essential for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
In 2023, the US and India launched INDUS-X and completed a Roadmap for US-India Defence Industrial Cooperation to enhance bilateral defence industrial cooperation and innovation, he said. The proposed deal between G.E. Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics for domestic Indian production of F-414 jet engines exemplifies this approach. The US and India are seeking unprecedented levels of interoperability by expanding cooperation in the air domain through the participation of US B-1B Bombers in India’s biennial air show AERO INDIA and bilateral air exercise COPE INDIA, he said.
”Additionally, in the land domain, we conducted the largest-ever bilateral joint amphibious exercise with India, TIGER TRIUMPH, improving our cooperation on maritime domain awareness and strengthening service-to-service ties. USINDOPACOM seeks to deepen cooperation under the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) to enable more regular and flexible engagements in the Indian Ocean Region, including US ship repair in Indian shipyards,” Aquilino said. “Two new Master Ship Repair Agreements were signed in 2023, and three US Navy vessels have recently received maintenance and repair in Indian shipyards,” he told lawmakers in his testimony.


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