Indo-US de­fence re­la­tions

– Will ir­ri­tants per­sist?


Much be­fore US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter ar­rived in In­dia on his re­cent visit, his agenda was well known. The visit was fol­low up to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s visit to In­dia in Jan­uary. Carter, who had trav­elled to In­dia in Septem­ber 2013 as Deputy Sec­re­tary of De­fense to sign the De­fence Trade and Tech­nol­ogy Ini­tia­tive (DTTI) be­tween the two coun­tries, was ex­pected to give the DTTI a ma­jor boost in ad­di­tion to the joint ven­ture ‘Make in In­dia’ projects agreed dur­ing the visit of Obama: next-gen­er­a­tion Raven UAVs; in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and re­con­nais­sance mod­ules for C-130 J Su­per Her­cules air­craft; mo­bile elec­tric hy­brid power sources, and; chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare pro­tec­tion gears for sol­diers. Dur­ing Obama’s visit, the two coun­tries had re­newed the de­fence frame­work agree­ment which de­fines steps to be taken in the next decade (up to 2025) to give a ma­jor boost to the bi­lat­eral de­fence part­ner­ship, in­cor­po­rat­ing for the first time a pro­vi­sion to co-pro­duce weapons in In­dia along with trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy un­der the DTTI.

The new frame­work for In­dia–US de­fence re­la­tions in 2005 had re­sulted in in­creased de­fence trade, joint ex­er­cises, per­son­nel ex­changes, col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­op­er­a­tion in mar­itime se­cu­rity and coun­ter­ing sea piracy. In 2014, for the first time an In­dian Navy ship par­tic­i­pated in the Rim of Pa­cific (RIMPAC) ex­er­cise. Bi­lat­eral di­a­logue of the Indo-US De­fence Pol­icy Group (DPG) has been on­go­ing post-9/11 at­tack; fo­rums be­ing the De­fence Joint work­ing Group (DJWG), Joint Tech­ni­cal Group ( JTG), De­fence Pro­cure­ment and Pro­duc­tion Group (DPPG), Se­nior Tech­nol­ogy Se­cu­rity Group (STSG), Mil­i­tary Co­op­er­a­tion Group (MCG) and Ser­vice to Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive Steer­ing Group (ESGs).

Dur­ing his re­cent visit, Ash­ton Carter head­ing a 13-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion vis­ited the Eastern Naval Com­mand at Visakhapatnam be­fore com­ing to Delhi where he met the Prime Min­is­ter, De­fence Min­is­ter, Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor. Carter con­veyed to Prime Min­is­ter Modi that In­dia was an im­por­tant strate­gic part­ner for the US, US pol­icy of re­bal­ance in Asia-Pa­cific com­pli­mented In­dia’s ‘Act East’ pol­icy, and that US is com­mit­ted to the ex­pe­di­tious im­ple­men­ta­tion of the de­ci­sions reached be­tween him and Pres­i­dent Obama. Views were also ex­changed on re­gional is­sues, in­clud­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan, and the re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the In­dian Ocean and the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. With De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar, Sec­re­tary Carter dis­cussed ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing re­gional se­cu­rity dy­nam­ics, Indo-US de­fence re­la­tion­ship and the broader In­dia-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship, reaf­firm­ing their com­mit­ment to ex­pand and deepen the bi­lat­eral de­fence re­la­tion­ship. The hall­mark of Carter’s visit was sign­ing of the 2015 Frame­work for the In­dia-US De­fence Re­la­tion­ship, aimed at guid­ing the bi­lat­eral de­fence and strate­gic part­ner­ship for 10 years.

The new frame­work agree­ment pro­vides av­enues for high level strate­gic dis­cus­sions, con­tin­ued ex­changes be­tween armed forces of both coun­tries, and strength­en­ing of de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties recog­nis­ing the trans­for­ma­tive na­ture of the DTTI. While two projects for joint de­vel­op­ment of mo­bile elec­tric hy­brid power sources and the nextgen­er­a­tion pro­tec­tive en­sem­bles were fi­nalised, agree­ments were also reached on: ex­pe­dit­ing dis­cus­sions for co­op­er­a­tion on jet en­gines, air­craft car­rier de­sign and con­struc­tion, and other ar­eas; pur­su­ing co-de­vel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion projects that will of­fer tan­gi­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties for US de­fence in­dus­tries to build de­fence part­ner­ship with In­dian in­dus­tries in­clud­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing un­der ‘Make in In­dia’, and; en­hanc­ing bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas of mu­tual in­ter­est, like mar­itime se­cu­rity and knowl­edge part­ner­ship in the field of de­fence.

While im­port of 22 Apache at­tack he­li­copters and 16 heavy lift Chi­nook he­li­copters were al­ready cleared, how the ‘Make in In­dia’ will progress un­der the DTTI re­mains to be seen. Tech­nol­ogy shar­ing and mar­itime se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion were also be­ing linked in the past to In­dia sign­ing agree­ments like the CISMOA (com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and se­cu­rity mem­o­ran­dum agree­ment), LSA (lo­gis­tics sup­ply agree­ment) and BECA (ba­sic ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment for geospa­tial co­op­er­a­tion). This apart, the thrust of the US side over the years gen­er­ally ap­pears to be for co­op­er­a­tion on the high seas of the Indo-Pa­cific other than pro­mot­ing busi­ness for the arms in­dus­try. Ar­guably, post such high level Indo-US di­a­logue, men­tion is made that re­gional de­vel­op­ments too were dis­cussed but the ques­tion is how se­ri­ously does the US take In­dia’s se­cu­rity con­cerns like Pak­istan’s con­tin­ued proxy war against In­dia; China’s ag­gres­sive pos­ture astride the Hi­malayas; China’s strate­gic lodg­ment in Gil­git-Baltistan; ef­forts to un­der­cut In­dia’s role in Afghanistan; and China’s sub-con­ven­tional ag­gres­sion in Myan­mar and In­dia to name a few.

The fact is that the Pak­istan-China nexus may well be the most dan­ger­ous in the world, fa­cil­i­tat­ing a seaboard to China on the In­dian Ocean next to the Per­sian Gulf. Both these coun­tries are nu­clear pow­ers and are proac­tively indulging in proxy wars. Con­tin­ued US sup­port the Pak­istani mil­i­tary de­spite all this, even bla­tant nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion, is cer­tainly detri­men­tal to In­dian in­ter­ests. The ques­tion is, will the US ad­dress these con­cern or will these ir­ri­tants con­tinue in the Indo-US de­fence co­op­er­a­tion ma­trix?

Con­tin­ued US sup­port to the Pak­istani mil­i­tary de­spite all this, even bla­tant nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion, is cer­tainly detri­men­tal to In­dian in­ter­ests


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