A long-term strategic security relationship with India is “critical” to ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean, a top US general told lawmakers today while calling for strengthening of defence ties between the two countries. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said the US and India should continue to expand cooperation in areas of mutual interest like maritime security. “We should also continue to strengthen our defence relationship by pursuing opportunities to co-develop and co- produce defence technology under the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative,” he said in a written response to questions submitted to him ahead of his confirmation hearing. “A long term strategic security relationship with India is critical to ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean,” Dunford said during his re-confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Noting that the US India military relationship is strong and getting stronger, Dunford said the two countries cooperate through complex naval exercises such as Malabar in the Bay of Bengal as well as robust engagement through defence trade and technology cooperation. He said the US had a range of military options to support diplomatic efforts to influence Chinese behaviour. Militarily, the Joint Force will engage with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) within congressionally mandated limits, build alliance capacity through close cooperation, and maintain international law through appropriate operations, he said.
China has shown willingness to use economic leverage as a way to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s regional political objectives, Dunford said.
As China’s military modernisation continues, the US and its allies and partners will continue to be challenged to balance China’s influence, he said.
Dunford said the long-term, sustained presence was critical to demonstrating that the US is committed to the region. The US will continue to develop a security network through multilateral partnerships and build interoperability and partner capacity to help allies and partners stand up to Chinese coercive behaviour, he said. Unilaterally, the US will continue to develop capabilities to counter China’s improving military capabilities, he added.