India/USA — Mullen Seeks to Continue Good Relations With Indian Military

ABOARD A U.S. AIR FORCE C‑17, July 22, 2010 — The mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and India has grown dra­mat­i­cal­ly in the past 20 years, and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wants to keep the process on track.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will arrive in New Del­hi short­ly to begin a vis­it that will have him meet­ing a num­ber of Indi­an mil­i­tary offi­cials includ­ing Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh. Mullen’s coun­ter­part, Air Chief Mar­shal Pradeep Vas­ant Naik, is host­ing the vis­it. Naik is new at his post. The two men met for the first time when the air chief mar­shal trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton ear­li­er this year. Mullen says he looks for­ward to deep­en­ing the friend­ship and under­stand­ing.

The rela­tion­ship between India and Pak­istan dom­i­nates the region. The two nations have fought five wars since both gained inde­pen­dence from Great Britain in 1947. Both still argue over the par­ti­tion of the state of Kash­mir, and both coun­tries still have a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of troops on the bor­der between them.

Mullen will speak to his coun­ter­part about mil­i­tary exer­cis­es between the nations. The pro­gram has grown in scope and com­plex­i­ty in the past 20 years, the admi­ral said.

Mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion is enhanced by a robust and chal­leng­ing exer­cise pro­gram, Mullen said. “It’s not a big new step to the next lev­el, but it has seemed to evolve to more com­pli­cat­ed exer­cis­es,” he said.

Mar­itime exer­cis­es pre­dom­i­nate, but there have been air exer­cis­es and last year saw the first U.S. Army unit train­ing with the Indi­an army in India.

“The Unit­ed States and India have shared inter­ests that are tied specif­i­cal­ly to coun­tert­er­ror­ism,” Mullen said. “We’ve both been attacked and lost pre­cious cit­i­zens.”

Work­ing togeth­er to blunt and to end the ter­ror­ist threat is one impe­tus to work­ing togeth­er. Indi­an mil­i­tary lead­ers “are also very focused on how we share what we have learned,” the chair­man said.

So coun­tert­er­ror­ism will be the main dis­cus­sion with Indi­an lead­ers. Mullen said he was in New Del­hi a few days after the ter­ror attack in Mum­bai in Novem­ber 2008. He said he was impressed by Indi­an restraint dur­ing and imme­di­ate­ly after the attack.

The chair­man wor­ries a great deal about a pos­si­ble repeat of the attack. “One of the things that struck me then and is still a great con­cern is how 10 ter­ror­ists could dri­ve two nuclear-armed nations clos­er to con­flict,” he said. There is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some kind of mis­cal­cu­la­tion in response to an attack such as the one in Mum­bai.

Laskar‑e Taib is a ter­ror group that con­cerns Mullen. The group oper­ates in Kash­mir and in the fed­er­al­ly admin­is­tered trib­al areas of Pak­istan. “I see them start­ing to emerge as a larg­er, region­al, glob­al threat,” the chair­man said. “One of the things I’ve watched in the FATA, in the region between Pak­istan and in Afghanistan is the merg­ing of these ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.”

Mullen says that he dis­cuss­es the impor­tance of the cyber domain with every coun­ter­part he meets with, and he expects to do the same with India – a ris­ing cyber pow­er. The chair­man will fol­low his vis­it to India with one to Pak­istan. The Unit­ed States has mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary con­tacts with both India and Pak­istan. While the U.S. mil­i­tary is not a bridge between the two nations, “it is impor­tant that we remain engaged,” Mullen said. “Cer­tain­ly there is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to have dis­cus­sions across the region and we will work our way through to a much more sta­ble future.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)