Modi visit to US – boost to de­fence co­op­er­a­tion

SP's MAI - - SPECIAL FEATURE - [ By Ran­jeet Kumar ]

New sig­nif­i­cant con­sen­sus seems to have emerged be­tween In­dia and the US dur­ing the Septem­ber-end visit of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to the United States on is­sues re­lat­ing to re­gional and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity, which per­haps will give a strong push to In­dia-US de­fence re­la­tions and trade. With In­dia ac­knowl­edg­ing the US Re­bal­ance to Asia pol­icy and US side not­ing In­dia’s newly drafted and up­graded Act East Pol­icy, it was nat­u­ral for a su­per­power of the world and an emerg­ing eco­nomic and mil­i­tary power to align and har­monise their strate­gic pri­or­i­ties.

Prob­a­bly with China as a big ele­phant in the Oval room of the White House, Prime Min­is­ter Modi and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama reaf­firmed their shared in­ter­ests in pre­serv­ing re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity, which are crit­i­cal to Asia-Pa­cific re­gion’s con­tin­ued pros­per­ity. Since both the na­tions have common se­cu­rity con­cerns and threat per­cep­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion Obama and Modi ex­pressed their con­cern about ris­ing ten­sions over mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes and both reaf­firmed the im­por­tance of safe­guard­ing mar­itime se­cu­rity and en­sur­ing free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over flight through­out the re­gion, es­pe­cially in the South China Sea.

Since In­dia and the United States use this mar­itime trade route which forms ma­jor por­tion of their in­ter­na­tional trade, es­pe­cially In­dia’s with 55 per cent of trade pass­ing through this re­gion, it was nat­u­ral for the two pow­ers to chal­lenge in­di­rectly China’s threat of use of force. This is rel­e­vant, es­pe­cially when China ad­vised an eu­phemism for warn­ing, In­dia to con­sult Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties be­fore ven­tur­ing into Viet­namese mar­itime area for gas ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties, claimed by China as dis­puted South China Sea wa­ters. Hence it was sig­nif­i­cant for In­dia and US to jointly call on all par­ties (read China) to avoid or threat or use of force in ad­vanc­ing their claims, the two lead­ers urged the con­cerned par­ties through a Joint State­ment to pur­sue res­o­lu­tion of their ter­ri­to­rial and mar­itime dis­putes through all peace­ful means in ac­cor­dance with uni­ver­sally recog­nised prin­ci­ples of in­ter­na­tional law, in­clud­ing the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea.

This con­gru­ence of strate­gic in­ter­ests in the South and East China Sea forced the two lead­ers to say that free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight through­out the re­gion must be en­sured, es­pe­cially in the South China Sea. It would not have gone un­no­ticed in Chi­nese strate­gic cir­cles, whose Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping had made a visit to In­dia only 12 days ago. The shared strate­gic in­ter­ests will def­i­nitely pro­mote more and deeper de­fence part­ner­ships be­tween the two na­tions. Ac­cord­ing to US of­fi­cials, US con­sid­ers de­fence co­op­er­a­tion as one of the pil­lars of US-In­dia part­ner­ship, hence the two sides de­cided to re­new for ten years the 2005 frame­work for the US In­dia de­fence re­la­tion­ship and di­rected their de­fence teams to de­velop plans for more am­bi­tious pro­grammes and ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to an US Em­bassy of­fi­cial in New Delhi, the two lead­ers have pledged closer en­gage­ment be­tween their se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ments to meet the evolv­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tury. The of­fi­cial in­formed that since 2008 the two coun­tries have signed de­fence con­tracts worth over $10 bil­lion as both gov­ern­ments are com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing im­ped­i­ments and pur­su­ing co-pro­duc­tion and co-de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. The of­fi­cial fur­ther boasted, “US-sourced de­fence ar­ti­cles have greatly en­hanced the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the In­dian mil­i­tary as demon­strated by the use of C-130J and C-17 trans­port air­craft to aid flood re­lief, support peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions, and fa­cil­i­tate the evac­u­a­tion of In­dian cit­i­zens from Iraq.” The Gov­ern­ment of In­dia has al­ready cleared a few ma­jor deals worth few bil­lion dol­lars like 22 Apache at­tack he­li­copters and 16 Chi­nook heavy-lift he­li­copters, be­sides the deal to co-de­velop and co-pro­duce the Javelin anti-tank mis­siles in In­dia.

The deep­en­ing de­fence and se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ships have en­thused the business com­mu­nity as well who also see an op­por­tu­nity in grow­ing in­ter­est of US de­fence in­dus­try in en­ter­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor in In­dia. Ac­cord­ing to the Pres­i­dent of FICCI Sid­hartha Birla, “The pos­i­tiv­ity that has been gen­er­ated through the visit of Prime Min­is­ter Modi to the United States will re­set the re­la­tion­ship be­tween In­dia and US in all realms be it eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal

In­dia-US de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion is as­sum­ing new di­men­sions for pro­mot­ing mu­tual strate­gic and eco­nomic se­cu­rity, which will en­cour­age deeper de­fence in­dus­try part­ner­ship.

or strate­gic.”

Both the coun­tries will now en­ter a new era of code­vel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion, which will change the face of US-In­dia de­fence re­la­tions from sup­plier–buyer to co-de­vel­oper and co-pro­ducer. After all, In­dia would be ac­quir­ing weapon sys­tems worth over $100 bil­lion in the next one decade and it makes sense to in­vite the ar­ma­ment gi­ants to come and Make in In­dia, ac­cord­ing to the vi­sion of Prime Min­is­ter Modi.

To ac­com­plish th­ese goals the two coun­tries have set up a task force un­der the lead­er­ship of the US Un­der Sec­re­tary of De­fense for Ac­qui­si­tion, Tech­nol­ogy and Lo­gis­tics Frank Ken­dall and the In­dian Sec­re­tary for De­fence Pro­duc­tion G. Mo­han Kumar. This will de­cide on unique co-pro­duc­tion and co-de­vel­op­ment projects and tech­nolo­gies as part of the De­fence Trade and Tech­nol­ogy Ini­tia­tive (DTTI). Since the two coun­tries have agreed on a broader com­mit­ment to ad­vance re­gional mar­itime se­cu­rity, the two gov­ern­ments are also eval­u­at­ing pos­si­ble new ar­eas of tech­nol­ogy co­op­er­a­tion.

To give a solid foun­da­tion and shape to the am­bi­tious agenda of mu­tual de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion both the gov­ern­ments have sched­uled a De­fence Pol­icy Group meet­ing in late Oc­to­ber in Wash­ing­ton DC and will also be or­gan­is­ing next round of bi­lat­eral politico-mil­i­tary di­a­logue in early De­cem­ber in New Delhi. The decision to rein­vig­o­rate the Po­lit­i­cal Mil­i­tary di­a­logue is sig­nif­i­cant in view of evolv­ing con­tours of de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion. This will be ex­panded to a wider di­a­logue on ex­port li­cens­ing, de­fence co­op­er­a­tion and strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion.

To fur­ther re­in­force con­tacts and di­a­logue be­tween de­fence aca­demic com­mu­nity the two coun­tries have agreed to build a re­la­tion­ship be­tween soon to be set up In­dian Na­tional De­fence Univer­sity (INDU) and the US Na­tional De­fence Univer­sity that will re­flect knowl­edge part­ner­ship in the field of de­fence stud­ies.

At the ground level, the two gov­ern­ments have also de­cided to pro­mote in­ter­ac­tions and ex­changes be­tween the three armed forces sep­a­rately. Said an US of­fi­cial, “Joint ex­er­cises are the cor­ner­stone of the US-In­dia de­fence re­la­tion­ships.” It sim­ply was not a co-in­ci­dence that while the two top Heads of States were in­dulging in in­tense dis­cus­sions to pro­mote se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion in White House, the armed forces of the two coun­tries were simultaneously en­gaged in joint ex­er­cises in Chauba­tia re­gion of Ut­tarak­hand State, with an aim to learn from each other’s ex­pe­ri­ences and pro­mote in­ter­op­er­abil­ity. When the Septem­ber 30 Obama-Modi meet­ing were un­der­way in White House the two armies were con­clud­ing the 10th an­nual Yudh Ab­hyas Ex­er­cise, which is man­aged by the US Pa­cific Com­mand and the In­dian Army. The ex­er­cise was fo­cused on peace­keep­ing and dis­as­ter re­lief. It is worth not­ing that for six decades In­dia has been one of the top con­trib­u­tors to global peace­keep­ing mis­sions, while the US is the largest fi­nan­cial contributor of the UN Peace­keep­ing. Sig­nif­i­cantly US and In­dia have also de­cided to up­grade the on­go­ing bi­lat­eral Mal­abar naval ex­er­cises, in which this year Ja­panese war­ships also took part. This is in keep­ing with the decision to soon call the next round of In­dia-Ja­pan and US tri­lat­eral di­a­logue, which also dwell on the ways to deal with the new mar­itime chal­lenge which has been thrown by China in the East and South China Sea. Thus In­dia-US de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion is grad­u­ally as­sum­ing new di­men­sions for pro­mot­ing mu­tual strate­gic and eco­nomic se­cu­rity, which will en­cour­age deeper de­fence in­dus­try part­ner­ship.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama

at the White House in Wash­ing­ton DC

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