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)