Washington, DC – US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday (June 19) met on Capitol Hill with a group of bipartisan lawmakers representing India caucuses of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to discuss the future of US-India defense cooperation.
Democrat Senator from Virginia Mark R. Warner, co-chair of the bipartisan Senate India Caucus and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, led the meeting with Secretary Mattis while India Caucus co-chair Republican Senator from Texas John Cornyn co-hosted the event. The House India Caucus is co-chaired by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and George Holding. From a historical perspective, this was a joint bipartisan meeting of the two newly formed country-specific caucuses, with a rare appearance by the Defense Secretary.
The Senators stressed the need to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two nations given their shared national security interests, with the goal of increasing security and stability in Asia and globally.
Secretary Mattis highlighted the growing nature of US-India defense cooperation, specifically the Department of Defense (DoD) efforts to increase military-to-military cooperation, information-sharing, and defense trade with a major defense partner.
“A closer partnership with India, based on shared national interests and democratic values, should remain a strategic imperative for the United States. This is particularly important as we see the rise of authoritarian regimes around the world,” said Senator Warner. “The United States should continue to pursue closer defense cooperation with India, increasing technology transfers, defense sales, joint military exercises and increased military cooperation on shared national security missions and priorities,” Warner added.
Senators Warner and Cornyn included language in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required DoD to codify the definition of Major Defense Partner and to develop a defense strategy with India. Most recently, both Senators introduced an amendment to the FY19 NDAA that failed, but which would have supported India’s membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC).
The event preceded Secretary Mattis’ planned meeting in India with the Indian Ministers of Defense & Foreign Affairs on July 6th. There is a lot of focus on India facing the risk of US sanctions because of a new legislation CAATSA or Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which restricts countries from buying significant military equipment from Russia. Mattis has sought exemption for several countries including India. In the past several weeks, top officials of the Trump administration have argued against any sanctions against India .
Twitter Comes Alive
“Great to have SECDEF Mattis join the bipartisan House and Senate India Caucus meeting,” Congressman Don Bacon tweeted after the meeting. India has the largest country-specific caucus in the House of Representatives.
“There has never been a moment where our strategic and economic interests were more aligned between our two countries than today. A stronger partnership helps both the US and India,” tweeted Congressman Bacon, who represents Nebraska’s Second Congressional District in the US House of Representatives.
“As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, we met today with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis as part of a bicameral India Caucus discussion on security cooperation and mutual defense interests,” Cornyn said in a tweet.
“Great hearing from SecDef Mattis at today’s Senate India Caucus meeting – important insights on the vital role of the US-India relationship to our national security in the Pacific region and at home,” Senator Warner said.
“We discussed efforts to enhance US-India defense cooperation,” Congressman Pete Olson tweeted.