India and the US are “natural partners” on a range of political, economic and security issues and the two countries have a mutual desire for global stability, the Trump administration told the Congress today. “We see a growing convergence with India on our strategic outlook for the region, and we view India as an increasingly important regional security partner within and beyond the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a joint report to the US Congress as required under the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017.
In its brief report running into less than 10 pages, the top officials said the two countries maintained a broad-based strategic partnership, underpinned by shared democratic values and interests and strong people-to-people ties. This is the first report of the Trump administration to the Congress on India-US defence and strategic relationship. “The United States and India are natural partners on a range of political, economic, and security issues,” the report said.
“With a mutual desire for global stability, the US and India have an increasing convergence of interests, including on maritime domain awareness, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and coordinated response to natural disasters and transnational threats,” the report said.
Noting that defence cooperation has emerged as an important pillar of the US-India partnership, the report said while America and India enjoy close defence cooperation across a range of areas, maritime security has become an important focus of their cooperation, consistent with the Joint Strategic Vision (JSV) and the defence framework.
“Both nations share a commitment to a rules-based international order, the free flow of global commerce, and the freedom of navigation. Moreover, both countries share concerns about maritime threats and a desire to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises,” it said. “As a result, the US and India established a Maritime Security Dialogue in 2016 to coordinate our maritime-related security and defence cooperation,” the report said.
The Trump Administration said the Major Defence Partner designation reflected the US readiness to facilitate the export of goods and technologies for projects, programmes and joint ventures in support of official US-India defence cooperation.
“This designation aims to support the development of defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain and provide a way to approve and facilitate the transfer of advanced technology. In particular, two significant modifications have been made to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR),” it said. First, the EAR establishes a presumption of approval for export licensing, which increases the efficiency and reliability of licensing decisions.
Second, the EAR includes an authorisation for India to be a Verified End User (VEU) for commercial and military exports, which negates the necessity of individually validated licenses for approved VEU applicants. “These two modifications better enable India to cooperate with the United States on the manufacturing of large projects and enable instantaneous exports to provide a just-in-time supply chain,” the report said. In their joint report, the Defence Department and the State Department said that the US-India defence relationship has matured and strengthened significantly over the past 15 years.
“Our strategic partnership rests on our shared democratic values, security interests, and strong people-to-people ties. The myriad of defence cooperation activities and, unique to India, Defence Technology and Trade Initiative and Major Defence Partner designation, attest to the importance both countries place on the defence relationship,” it said. “The momentum behind the relationship and converging security interests will result in a more secure Indo-Asia- Pacific region and beyond,” the report said.