Days ahead of his visit to India, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter today said that the defence relationship between the world’s two largest democracies has never been as close it is now. “The US-India defence relationship is the closest it’s ever been. Through our strategic handshake – with America reaching west in the rebalance, and India reaching east in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls his Act East policy – our two nations are exercising together by air, land, and sea like never before,” Carter said.
Carter, who would be in India next week, said this in his address to the Regan National Defence Forum in Simi Valley, California.
The outgoing US defence secretary’s last overseas trip includes Japan, India, Israel, Bahrain, Italy and the UK.
“We also have a technological handshake – as the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, or DTTI, grasps hands with Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India campaign – that’s helping our countries move toward more diverse co-development and co-production of weapons systems,” he said.
As he begins his last overseas tour from the Asia Pacific region, Carter reflected on the rebalance strategy of President Barack Obama.
“It will ensure DoD continues to help provide the security necessary for that consequential region – which is home to nearly half the global population and nearly half the global economy – to remain a place where everyone can rise and prosper for decades to come,” he said.
“That’s been American policy and practice since the end of World War II more than 70 years ago. Regardless of what else was going on at home or in other parts of the world – during Democratic and Republican administrations, in times of surplus and deficit, war and peace – the United States has remained economically, politically, and militarily engaged in the Asia-Pacific,” he said.
The US, he said, has long taken a principled and inclusive approach, and collaborated with a network of regional allies and partners to enable security and uphold important principles like resolving disputes peacefully; ensuring countries can make choices free from external coercion and intimidation; and preserving the freedom of overflight and navigation guaranteed by international law.
“Because we did so, out of the rubble of World War II, economic miracle after miracle has occurred. Think about it…first Japan, then Taiwan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia rose and prospered, and today, China and India are doing the same,” he said.
That progress has produced incredible changes in the region: populations are growing, education has improved, freedom and self-determination have spread, economies have grown more interconnected, and military spending and cooperation are growing, he added.