The US and India have a range of common security interests like maritime domain awareness, counterpiracy and counterterrorism, a top American Admiral said, insisting that the continued growth of bilateral ties should focus on expanding India’s Major Defence Partner status. Admiral Philip S Davidson, nominee for US Pacific Command Commander, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday during his confirmation hearing that India and the US, in less than three decades, have moved from “estranged democracies” to budding strategic partners. “The current state of US-India relations presents a historic opportunity to deepen ties and solidify what could develop into the defining partnership of the 21st Century,” Davidson said. He said the recent National Security Strategy and National Defence Strategy highlighted the prominence of India and encouraged India’s development as a net security provider in the South Asian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean region.
“US-India defense ties are strong and growing stronger; the United States and India have a range of common security interests that include maritime domain awareness, counterpiracy, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Davidson said. A robust slate of dialogues, military exercises, defense trade, personnel exchanges, and armaments cooperation characterizes the military-to-military relationship, he said. “While ties between the two militaries have increased, there remains considerable room for growth,” he observed. “The continued growth of our partnership should focus on closer collaboration on common security interests, expanding India’s Major Defense Partner status (MDP), and concluding key foundational agreements that will increase inter-operability between our forces and facilitate high-end cooperation,” Davidson said.
Noting that an enduring strategic partnership with India comports with US goals and objectives in the Indo-Pacific, Davidson told lawmakers that if confirmed, he would maintain the positive momentum and trajectory of the burgeoning strategic partnership by continuing to build on past efforts to establish relationships and a strong foundation for a long-term partnership. “I will seek to prioritise increasing maritime security cooperation, expanding the military-to-military relationship across all Services, concluding key foundational agreements, facilitating greater Indian contributions to Afghanistan, and deepening defense cooperation,” Davidson said.
“Moreover, I see strong potential for greater cooperation on counter-proliferation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterpiracy, counter-terrorism, and greater intelligence sharing on common threats,” he said. Responding to a question, Davidson said the mistrust between India and China challenges the security and stability of the region.
“A trust deficit stemming from China’s longstanding relationship with Pakistan, India’s defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian war, long-standing border disputes, increasing competition for resources, and the Belt and Road Initiative complicate the relationship between the region’s two fastest growing powers,” he said. “The ongoing border dispute, trade imbalances, and competition for influence across South and Southeast Asia also confound efforts to reduce the pervasive mistrust. Ultimately, this mistrust challenges the security and stability of the region,” Davidson said.