India and the US on Tuesday agreed to deepen military ties, including sharing further cutting-edge platforms which would enhance New Delhi’s preparedness to meet current and emerging threats. India also made it clear that there will be no boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Besides joint projects under the bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), in her first major engagement with a foreign counterpart, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s delegation-level talks focussed on India-US defence cooperation, maritime security, drones, counter-terrorism and other major issues of mutual concern. Addressing the media soon after the delegation-level talks, Sitharaman said, “Cooperation in defence equipment has grown steadily over the past years. The US is now willing to share further cutting-edge platforms which would enhance India’s defence preparedness to meet current and emerging threats.”
The two sides discussed how to re-focus and re-energise DTTI as a mechanism to promote technology-sharing as well as co-production and co-development efforts. Also, discussed was ways to further deepen the robust trade and technology collaboration between defence industries.
“We look forward to sharing some of our most advanced defence technologies through DTTI,” visiting US defence secretary James Mattis said.
The two sides discussed maritime security in the India Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region. Responding to a question, Sitharaman said, “India’s contribution to Afghanistan has been there for a very long time in development activities like building dams, schools, hospitals, roads and any institution which the war-torn country may require.”
Mattis is the first high ranking official of the Trump administration to visit India and the US has wanted Indian military presence in Afghanistan.
“These engagements will continue, but there shall be no boots on the ground in Afghanistan,” Sitharaman said, adding that the issue of US military aid was also raised during talks. “We are also at the moment training their officials in good governance… India’s contribution has been there and we shall expand if necessary,” she added. While underlining India’s strong relations with the US, Sitharaman said there was a growing convergence between India and the US over the issue of terrorism in the region and condemnation of those who use terror as an instrument of state policy.
While Mattis did not name Pakistan but Sitharaman minced no words in saying that terror attacks in Mumbai or in New York originated from Pakistan. “The very same forces which did find safe haven in Pakistan were the forces that hit New York as well as Mumbai,” she said. He said the US values India’s “invaluable contribution to Afghanistan” and welcomes further efforts to promote democracy and security there. He said the two countries recognised threat to global peace from terror and agreed there should be “no tolerance to safe havens for terrorists”. “As global leaders, India and the US pledged to eradicate this scourge.”Replying to a question, Mattis appreciated India’s efforts along with the international community for increasing pressure on North Korea over its nuclear activities.