Washington, DC – The defense relationship between the United States and India is positive and has come a long way in two decades, Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, said today.
Abercrombie discussed the defense and security relationship between the two nations during a panel at the 2017 Global Business Forum in New York City.
The topic comes two weeks after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi here to discuss the importance of the US-India relationship, and the role of both nations in cooperating to foster democratic laws and principles. During the meeting, Mattis applauded India’s long-term efforts to promote stability in the Indian Ocean region and the two leaders pledged to continue the strong defense partnership between both nations and broaden military-to-military engagements.
“Back in early 2000s, defense trade [between India and the US] was zero dollars. We’re now at $15 billion in a relatively short period of time,” Abercrombie said. “We’ve made huge progress, but we’ve just scratched the surface of the potential of this relationship.”
The US and India have a broad-based strategic partnership rooted in shared values as democracies, she said. “… [As] we look at the global order, and when we look at the evolving security environment within Asia, India’s rise and role [is] evolving, [and] we see the United States and India increasingly viewing the region in the same way, and our interests are very much aligned.”
The relationship creates a high level of dialogue in the Pentagon on a range of issues, Abercrombie said, citing the regular engagement of both militaries; trade, which is critical to advancing the relationship; and technology cooperation through co-production and co-development.
“This is all rooted in when we look at the region and [what] we share,” she said. “We have the same [aerial] security interests, the same counter-proliferation, counter-piracy, and counter-terrorism [interests].”
Fundamentally, Abercrombie added, “We have the same interests in upholding this international system that upholds the rule of law that favors freedom of navigation, open sea lanes of communication, and freedom of over flight. Those are values that are critically important to the United States and India to our economic prosperity and to our access in the region.”
The United States has sold India C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and P-8 Poseidon aircraft; CH-47 Chinook and AH-61 Apache helicopters; and offered the Guardian unmanned aerial vehicle, the latter of which Abercrombie called incredibly significant.
“It demonstrates the value we place on this relationship,” she said, “and it demonstrates that when we classified India as a major defense partner last year, that has meaning.”