U.S. Military Seeks Stronger Ties with India

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 — The bot­tom-line mes­sage of a report the Defense Depart­ment sub­mit­ted to Con­gress this week is that the U.S.-India secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship is strong and get­ting stronger, the deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for South and South­east Asia said here yes­ter­day.

Robert Sch­er briefed reporters on the U.S.-India Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion Report, sub­mit­ted to Con­gress on Nov. 1.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma called the rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and India one of the defin­ing part­ner­ships of the 21st cen­tu­ry. “The U.S.-India rela­tion­ship is a pri­or­i­ty for the U.S. gov­ern­ment and for the Depart­ment of Defense, because we believe that a strong bilat­er­al part­ner­ship is in the Unit­ed States’ inter­ests and ben­e­fits both of our coun­tries,” Sch­er said.

It is only in the past decade that the rela­tion­ship has grown. Dur­ing the Cold War, India led the non­aligned move­ment, but tilt­ed toward Moscow. Fol­low­ing the dis­so­lu­tion of the Sovi­et Union, Indi­an lead­ers rethought their strat­e­gy and moved toward the Unit­ed States, Sch­er said.

Since 2004, “what was once a nascent rela­tion­ship between unfa­mil­iar nations has evolved into a real part­ner­ship between two of the pre-emi­nent pow­ers in Asia,” he added. “Today, U.S.-India defense ties are strong and grow­ing. Our mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary engage­ment has increased steadi­ly over the past 10 years, and now includes a robust slate of dia­logues, mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, defense trade, per­son­nel exchanges and arma­ments coop­er­a­tion.”

The deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary quick­ly point­ed out that the secu­ri­ty ties are just one facet of the over­all rela­tion­ship between the world’s old­est democ­ra­cy and the world’s largest democ­ra­cy. “We believe that our engage­ments today will help as India takes on a greater lead­er­ship role in South Asia, the Indi­an Ocean region and glob­al­ly, on a range of issues,” he said.

Sch­er called the rela­tion­ship between the two nations unique, and he stressed that the Unit­ed States wants, “a part­ner­ship of equals, where India is enmeshed in the world as a key actor, and in region­al secu­ri­ty archi­tec­tures, where we can and we do work togeth­er on shared inter­ests.”

The nine-page report high­lights the pos­i­tive tra­jec­to­ry of U.S.-India secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion, Sch­er said, empha­siz­ing that the report focus­es strict­ly on secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion.

“This by no means cap­tures the entire­ty of the U.S.-India rela­tion­ship,” he told reporters. “For instance, although we don’t men­tion it in the report, the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense does and will con­tin­ue to sup­port coop­er­a­tion led by our inter­a­gency part­ners on issues such as coun­ter­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion, to include nuclear secu­ri­ty and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, as well as coop­er­a­tion on peace­keep­ing, space and coun­tert­er­ror­ism.”

The report details the breadth and depth of the U.S.-India exer­cise pro­gram and the extent of mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary con­tacts between the two nations. It also address­es oper­a­tional coop­er­a­tion on human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief and coun­ter­pira­cy and oth­er mar­itime secu­ri­ty. “These are two of the areas where we see the most poten­tial to advance our coop­er­a­tion with India,” Sch­er said.

The report high­lights some mil­i­tary sales, includ­ing the recent sales of C-130J and C-17 air­craft to India.

“The report also dis­cuss­es the impor­tance of per­son­nel exchanges, which is real­ly one of our high­est-pri­or­i­ty issues,” Sch­er said. “Our goal is to look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to enable fur­ther train­ing and exchanges between our two defense estab­lish­ments in order to increase expo­sure and famil­iar­iza­tion of our ser­vice per­son­nel to each other’s coun­tries. His­to­ry has shown time and again the impor­tance of these per­son­al rela­tion­ships.”

The report touch­es on the way for­ward for the rela­tion­ship, detail­ing a five-year plan to enhance bilat­er­al secu­ri­ty. The Unit­ed States would like to improve and expand the rela­tion­ship in four areas, Sch­er said: com­bined mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, defense trade and sup­port for India’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion, coop­er­a­tion in areas such as human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, and dis­as­ter relief and coop­er­a­tion with oth­er Asian part­ners.

“The goal across these areas of coop­er­a­tion is not nec­es­sar­i­ly to do more, but rather to find ways to make our coop­er­a­tion mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial and to broad­en the already strong foun­da­tion of the defense rela­tion­ship,” he said.

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