Washington, DC – US Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi today (December 8) as part of a worldwide trip to thank service members and discuss growing accord and priorities with allies.
Carter’s third official visit to India marks the two leaders’ seventh interaction, which the secretary said represents a strategic partnership with the vast nation, its rising military power, and a democracy that shares with the United States many common values and approaches.
“We’re both multicultural societies, but nevertheless, hold together extremely well,” Carter said, adding that the defense relationship, in particular, has “grown by leaps and bounds” in the last few years. That growth, he said, is measured by the pace of joint activities between the two militaries, including participation in two trilateral exercises as well as bilateral exercises, which he said indicates “immense promise” for the future of India-US security cooperation.
Technological, Strategic Handshakes
In matters of technology, both sides praised progress under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), a flexible mechanism used to reduce bureaucracy and expand collaboration and business ties between the United States and India.
According to a statement released by the Pentagon, under DTTI, the United States and India have launched seven joint working groups to explore collaborative projects and programs and signed two science and technology government-to-government project agreements – the Next Generation Protective Ensembles and Mobile Hybrid Power Sources – worth roughly $2 million.
And since 2008, US-India defense trade has risen from roughly $1 billion to more than $14 billion, including Indian procurement of 13 Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft, 10 C-17 Globemaster III transports and 12 P-8 Poseidon aircraft, as well as 22 AH-64 Apache and 15 CH-47 Chinook helicopters. This month, the United States and India signed a deal worth about $732 million to provide the Indian army with 145 M777 Howitzer guns.
Carter described the commitment to explore new proposals and other innovative opportunities for co-production and co-development through DTTI as a “sign that the relationship has matured to a level of strategic importance.”
The US strategic rebalance to the region and Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s “Act East” policy launched in November 2014 “meet as an Asia-Pacific focus” for both nations, Carter said, as the policy is said to have reinvigorated India’s economic, political and counterterrorism ties with Association of Southeast Asian Nation states.
“There is a lot going on in this relationship — you couldn’t have imagined what we’re doing now in 2008, and you couldn’t imagine that in 2000,” Carter said.
Partnership Through Vigilance
The two defense leaders also exchanged views on regional security issues, including the specter of terrorism. They agreed to continue further strengthening the bilateral counterterrorism cooperation and underscored the need to ensure no states afford patronage to terror groups.
As India-US defense relations have been on the upswing in recent years, Carter recounted marked progress on agreements, including his signing of a defense framework agreement in 2015, which he said “laid a blueprint for collaboration between our defense establishments and enabled deeper cooperation.”
Bilateral cooperation, the statement said, has expanded through joint exchange opportunities – in both personnel and training exercises, with the recent signing of the logistics exchange memorandum of agreement, which has created new opportunities for practical engagement and exchange.
In addition, Carter and Parrikar finalized India’s designation as a major defense partner of the United States, signifying enhanced defense trade and technology sharing to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners.