Routine Interactions Build U.S‑India Defense Relations

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2011 — The U.S.-India defense rela­tion­ship is a nat­ur­al part­ner­ship cre­at­ed by shared inter­ests and val­ues and dri­ven by increas­ing­ly rou­tine day-to-day inter­ac­tions, a senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cial said here today.

Robert Sch­er, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for South and South­east Asia, spoke to an audi­ence at the New Amer­i­ca Foundation. 

Day-to-day suc­cess­es that lay the ground­work for the U.S.-India defense rela­tion­ship are rarely in the spot­light, Sch­er said, “but they are an impor­tant fac­tor in dri­ving our rela­tion­ship for­ward and help­ing us under­stand each other.” 

The U.S.-India rela­tion­ship is a pri­or­i­ty for the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and the Defense Depart­ment, Sch­er said, one that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has called a defin­ing part­ner­ship of the 21st cen­tu­ry. In recent years, he added, high-lev­el vis­its have cement­ed the com­mit­ment of both nations to the bilat­er­al relationship. 

Indi­an Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh vis­it­ed the Unit­ed States in 2009, and Oba­ma trav­eled to India in 2010. Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clinton’s July atten­dance at the U.S.-India Strate­gic Dia­logue was her sec­ond trip there as sec­re­tary of state. 

“India is a major region­al and glob­al pow­er,” Sch­er said. “We view our rela­tion­ship with India as a part­ner­ship of equals — two nation states with a com­mon­al­i­ty of secu­ri­ty inter­ests in the Indi­an Ocean region and beyond.” 

Sch­er said the most impor­tant thing the Unit­ed States is doing in its defense rela­tion­ship with India is build­ing mutu­al trust and under­stand­ing that will help to ensure that com­mon val­ues and inter­ests can trans­late into com­mon approaches. 

Three key areas in the U.S.-India defense rela­tion­ship are peo­ple-to-peo­ple ties, mil­i­tary engage­ment and defense sales, the deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense said. 

Exam­ples of peo­ple-to-peo­ple ties include atten­dance by ser­vice mem­bers from both nations at U.S. and Indi­an mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, Sch­er said. 

“In 2010, we had near­ly 100 mem­bers of the Indi­an armed ser­vices at mil­i­tary schools or cours­es in the Unit­ed States,” he said. “These edu­ca­tion­al inter­ac­tions are fan­tas­tic oppor­tu­ni­ties to share per­spec­tives, under­stand cul­tur­al mind­sets and sim­ply become friends with colleagues.” 

All three of the Indi­an military’s cur­rent ser­vice chiefs went to school in the Unit­ed States dur­ing their careers, Sch­er noted. 

“Air Mar­shal [Nor­man Anil Kumar] Browne grad­u­at­ed from the Air Com­mand and Staff Col­lege, he said. “Gen­er­al [Jogin­der Jaswant] Singh is a grad­u­ate of both the U.S. Army Ranger School and the U.S. Army War Col­lege. And Adm. [Nir­mal Kumar] Ver­ma is a grad­u­ate of the U.S. Naval War College.” 

In the Unit­ed States, Sch­er added, retired Navy Adm. Wal­ter L. Doran attend­ed the Indi­an Defense Ser­vice Staff Col­lege in Welling­ton, Tamil Nadu, India, in 1979. There, he formed a close rela­tion­ship with Indi­an col­leagues who includ­ed for­mer Indi­an Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Arun Prakash and Adm. Sureesh Mehta. 

“This has real-world impli­ca­tions,” Sch­er said. “Dur­ing his 10 years as admi­ral of the Pacif­ic Fleet, Admi­ral Doran’s per­son­al rela­tion­ship with Admi­ral Prakash proved instru­men­tal in ini­ti­at­ing coor­di­na­tion between the U.S. and Indi­an response efforts to the 2004 Indi­an Ocean tsunami.” 

The U.S. Naval Post­grad­u­ate School recent­ly for­mal­ized a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with India’s Defense Insti­tute of Advanced Tech­nol­o­gy, he added. 

“This Sep­tem­ber,” Sch­er told the group, “they will joint­ly con­duct a defeat­ing-ter­ror­ism work­shop that will bring togeth­er senior lead­ers from both sides, includ­ing the direc­tor gen­er­al of India’s Defense Research Devel­op­ment Orga­ni­za­tion and the [U.S.] chief of naval research to dis­cuss ways to lever­age research capa­bil­i­ties to con­tribute to the defeat of terrorism.” 

A sim­i­lar work­shop on cyber­se­cu­ri­ty is planned for the near future, he said. 

In Jan­u­ary, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Air Force Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry vis­it­ed India with a team of Air Force sci­en­tists, Sch­er said. They returned to the Unit­ed States with pro­pos­als for fur­ther dis­cus­sions in 18 new tech­no­log­i­cal areas, includ­ing nano­ma­te­ri­als, road­side-bomb detec­tion and high-tem­per­a­ture super alloys. 

“Sev­er­al of these will like­ly lead to agree­ments for the exchange of tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion or col­lab­o­ra­tive research projects that will add to the dozen or so such agree­ments estab­lished between the two coun­tries since 2005,” he said. 

Mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary engage­ments are anoth­er ele­ment of the U.S.-India defense part­ner­ship, Sch­er said. 

“We part­ner with the Indi­ans on a num­ber of edu­ca­tion­al, doc­tri­nal, insti­tu­tion­al, train­ing and oth­er sub­ject mat­ter exchanges,” he added. “These engage­ments and exer­cis­es pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for our mil­i­taries to work togeth­er and learn from each oth­er, … and most impor­tant­ly, they improve our abil­i­ty to address real-life challenges.” 

India rou­tine­ly has more exer­cis­es with the Unit­ed States than with any oth­er coun­try, Sch­er not­ed. “Over the last six years, we’ve done near­ly 50 major exer­cis­es with India, … and our exer­cis­es are evolv­ing in com­plex­i­ty,” he said. 

Over a decade, Mal­abar, a reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled bilat­er­al naval field train­ing exer­cise with India, has advanced from lit­tle more than a pass­ing exer­cise to a full engage­ment that exer­cis­es all func­tion­al war­fare areas, Sch­er said. 

“Mal­abar allows our navies to work coop­er­a­tive­ly in inte­grat­ed air and mis­sile defense, anti­sub­ma­rine and naval spe­cial war­fare sce­nar­ios, for exam­ple,” he said. 

In Sep­tem­ber, Sch­er said, in one of the first major inter­ac­tions with the Indi­an coast guard, “we’re going to send a train­ing team of sub­ject mat­ter experts to India to work with the Indi­an coast guard on coun­tert­er­ror­ism and antipira­cy-relat­ed board­ing measures.” 

The major U.S. exer­cise with the Indi­an army, Yudh Aby­has, start­ed in 2004 as the first con­ven­tion­al army-to-army train­ing with India since 1962, Sch­er said. 

“The exer­cise, in addi­tion to shar­ing train­ing and capa­bil­i­ties, pro­motes coop­er­a­tion between our armies on part­ner readi­ness,” he said. “The first deploy­ment of Stryk­er vehi­cles out­side the Unit­ed States oth­er than to a war zone was to India [to sup­port their par­tic­i­pa­tion] in Yudh Abyhas.” 

The prac­ti­cal effect of such inter­ac­tion is to allow the two nations to make progress on issues of shared inter­est, such as mar­itime secu­ri­ty, Sch­er said. 

“The Unit­ed States and India share a clear desire for free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and unim­ped­ed sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Indi­an Ocean,” he said. “And through our mil­i­tary engage­ments this year, we will seek to deep­en coop­er­a­tion on key issues such as mar­itime domain aware­ness, coun­ter­ing pira­cy and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief.” 

Togeth­er, the Unit­ed States and India have an impor­tant role in fos­ter­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion in Asia and sup­port­ing the emerg­ing region­al secu­ri­ty archi­tec­tures, Sch­er said. 

“Over­all,” he added, “we will increas­ing­ly look to India’s lead­er­ship and part­ner­ship in pro­mot­ing and main­tain­ing secu­ri­ty in the region and the world.” 

Defense sales to India increased from vir­tu­al­ly no defense trade rela­tion­ship in the 1990s to near­ly $6 bil­lion today in for­eign mil­i­tary sales alone, Sch­er said. 

“It is clear that the Indi­an mil­i­tary in the future will rou­tine­ly use U.S. equip­ment and all ser­vices across a full range of mis­sion areas,” he added. 

The Unit­ed States and India, Sch­er said, “are des­tined to be clos­er because of our shared inter­ests and val­ues, democ­ra­cy, human rights and our desire for a sta­ble, secure and inclu­sive world economy.” 

All of this, he added, “makes us nat­ur­al partners.” 

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

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