Two top American Senators have appealed to US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to place special emphasis on India as a “critical ally” so that the two countries could pursue their broad array of strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Our partnership with India is critical as we focus on strengthening America’s long-term role in the region. As you consider a wide range of important strategic and defense issues during your tenure as Secretary, we ask that you place a special emphasis on India as a critical ally,” Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn wrote in a letter to Carter.
Democratic Party’s Warner and Republican Party’s Cornyn are Co-Chairs of the influential Senate India Caucus â€“ the only country specific caucus in the US Senate.
“We believe that focusing on cultivating India as a strategic ally now will pay great dividends for both nations over the long run,” they wrote in the March 27 dated letter.
They said the US’ strategic partnership with India was among the “most important” and America had a broad array of strategic interests in the region, “from the long-term security and stability of Afghanistan to our strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific”.
The renewal of the 10-year framework for the US-India defense relationship is an important component to help solidify these strategic interests, they said.
“This renewal signal[s] a new depth and sophistication in our defense and security cooperation, ensuring that it continues to be one of the strongest pillars of our nations’ broad strategic partnership – a partnership that will help forge security and stability in Asia and across the globe,” they said.
The results of India US defense partnership have already proved fruitful, they wrote.
The two countries have cooperated in countering terrorism, combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and bolstering the security of the region.
Over USD10 billion dollars in defense trade deals between the United States and India have been signed since 2008, and our two counties now conduct more military exercises with each other than with any other country.
“Through the new 10-year agreement, programs such as these will continue to deepen our partnership. We also welcome India’s initial steps toward liberalizing its foreign direct investment rules in the defense sector which will allow for greater investments by US companies as well as both countries’ renewed emphasis on the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative,” the two senators said.
They also hoped that India would make needed reforms in defense offsets as “the current system is difficult to navigate and is often a roadblock to foreign investment”.
“It would be beneficial to pursue a two-tiered system where offset funds that cannot be spent on traditional Indian defense industries could flow to a second tier of other Indian priorities such as education, skills development, or manufacturing,” they said.