India/USA — Officials Praise Growth of U.S.-India Military Partnership

NEW DELHI, July 23, 2010 — The growth of mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion between India and the Unit­ed States is “stun­ning,” and it is poised to con­tin­ue to increase, U.S. offi­cials told reporters here today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in New Del­hi to explore ways to increase the mil­i­tary part­ner­ship between the two nations.

“It is stun­ning how many things we are work­ing on with the Indi­ans … and how fast our part­ner­ship is grow­ing,” said one U.S. offi­cial, speak­ing on back­ground to reporters trav­el­ing with Mullen. “The chairman’s vis­it, obvi­ous­ly, is reflec­tive of the impor­tant coop­er­a­tion we have in terms of the defense side and the strate­gic part­ner­ship.”

The defense rela­tion­ship between India and the Unit­ed States is fair­ly mature and goes back to 1995, when then-Defense Sec­re­tary William Per­ry signed the first mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with his Indi­an coun­ter­part.

Today, mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion between India and the Unit­ed States most­ly involves bilat­er­al exer­cis­es, per­son­nel exchanges and train­ing.

“We do more with the Indi­ans than the Indi­ans do with any oth­er coun­try,” said anoth­er U.S. offi­cial. “That shows the impor­tance of the rela­tion­ship to the Indi­ans.”

India and the Unit­ed States have many bilat­er­al exer­cis­es with some mul­ti­lat­er­al, offi­cials said. India has been invit­ed to be an observ­er at next year’s Cobra Gold multi­na­tion­al mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, and India has par­tic­i­pat­ed in Air Force Red Flag exer­cis­es at Nel­lis Air Force Base, Nev.

U.S. forces exer­cise with Indi­an navy ships through­out the Indi­an Ocean region, and U.S. and Indi­an ser­vice­mem­bers coop­er­ate with each oth­er around the world, offi­cials said. Amer­i­can and Indi­an ser­vice­mem­bers also have worked togeth­er close­ly in U.N. peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions.

U.S.-India mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, offi­cials said, are becom­ing more com­plex and more joint. In the past, the indi­vid­ual ser­vices tend­ed to oper­ate with their coun­ter­parts, the offi­cial said. Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces will be part of up-com­ing exer­cis­es.

India also is look­ing at buy­ing U.S. defense sys­tems.

“This is the next step ahead,” said the offi­cial, not­ing that India has bought six C‑130J Her­cules trans­ports. With the pur­chase of these air­craft, Indi­an mil­i­tary non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers and oth­er enlist­ed per­son­nel will trav­el to the Unit­ed States for train­ing, the offi­cial said, and this opens up a whole new win­dow for coop­er­a­tion.

“We’re hope­ful that we will con­clude the con­tract for 10 C‑17s,” the offi­cial said. “That will change the depth of the rela­tion­ship as we move along.”

U.S. defense firms also are com­pet­ing for a $10 bil­lion con­tract to replace India’s aging fleet of MiG-21 jet fight­er air­craft, the offi­cial said. Lock­heed-Mar­tin has offered the F‑16 Fal­con and Boe­ing the F/A‑18 Super Hor­net. They are com­pet­ing against Russ­ian, Swedish and French firms for the 126-plane deal.

The Unit­ed States also coop­er­ates with India on coun­tert­er­ror­ism, includ­ing shar­ing intel­li­gence, the offi­cial said, not­ing the two coun­tries also coop­er­ate on region­al issues.

Pak­istan is always a top­ic of dis­cus­sion between the Unit­ed States and India, offi­cials said. Pak­istan and India have fought a num­ber of wars since both coun­tries became inde­pen­dent in 1947, and con­tin­ue to regard each oth­er with sus­pi­cion.

The Mum­bai ter­ror attacks on Novem­ber 26, 2008 – what Indi­ans call 26–11 – killed 166 peo­ple and wound­ed more than 300. The Pak­istan-based ter­ror group Lashkar-e-Tai­ba was respon­si­ble for the attacks.

Most Indi­ans want a sta­ble Pak­istan, said anoth­er U.S. offi­cial, and they believe Pak­istani offi­cials now real­ize how seri­ous the threat from ter­ror groups like Lashkar-e-Tai­ba is. India also is work­ing with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and specif­i­cal­ly the Unit­ed States in Afghanistan. “India has pro­vid­ed $1.3 bil­lion in eco­nom­ic aid and gov­er­nance sup­port in Afghanistan,” an offi­cial said.

Mean­while, the India‑U.S. mil­i­tary part­ner­ship con­tin­ues to grow, offi­cials said. In addi­tion to nor­mal land, sea, air and space coop­er­a­tion, they said, the Unit­ed States and India are look­ing at the prob­lem of cyberde­fense.

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