WASHINGTON – The United States is committed to South and Central Asia, and deeper U.S.-Indian military-to-military relations will make the region and globe safer and more secure, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the United States and India have both been victims of terror, and that binds together to two great democracies.
„Both of our nations have sacrificed at the hands of terror and stand steadfast against all terrorists,“ Mullen said during a news conference. „Both of us have learned a great deal on our own and stand to learn even more from each other in areas like counterinsurgency, nonproliferation, anti-piracy and regional defense.“
Mullen spoke the same day that Timothy Roemer, the U.S. ambassador to India, and Home Affairs Minister G.K. Pillai signed a memorandum of understanding on the Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative.
The initiative will expand collaboration on counterterrorism, information sharing and capacity building. The initiative looks at closer working arrangements on transportation security; money laundering; maritime, port and border security; cybersecurity; and mega-city policing.
The memo is indicative of the drive for the United States and India to work closely together, Mullen said.
The admiral addressed U.S. commitment to the region and specifically to Afghanistan. He said India and the United States not only want to see a secure and stable Afghanistan, but a secure and stable region.
„Let me assure you that America’s military remains committed to our mission in Afghanistan, and that mission does not end in July 2011,“ Mullen said.
During his West Point speech in November 2009, President Barack Obama said the United States will begin the process of handing over more authority to Afghan security forces beginning July 2011. Mullen clarified what this means, saying the United States will make the transfer „only as fast and as far as conditions on the ground permit. No one is looking for the door in Afghanistan or out of this region.“
The chairman praised India for its contributions to Afghanistan, noting India has invested $1.3 billion to improve economic and governance conditions in Afghanistan.
The chairman acknowledged that good U.S.-India military-to-military relations are vital to continued security and stability.
„As good as our relationship is with the Indian military today, tomorrow I would like to see it get even better,“ Mullen said. „I note with pride the many exercises we conduct with India, the robust exchange programs we have in place and the healthy military sales initiatives we pursue.“
Mullen said he wants to move the U.S.-India military-to-military relationship to the next level.
„The region is still too dangerous, the challenges we face together are still too great for us not to become better friends and for our relationship to become more routine,“ the admiral said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)