Defense dialogue moves India-U.S. relationship forward

Defense dialogue moves India-U.S. relationship forward

Top Stories | Jan 21, 2020:

Mandeep Singh

Defense and security issues loomed large as the chief diplomats and defense officials from India and the United States met for the second annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington, D.C., on December 18, 2019, and collaborated on issues such as maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism, and cyber security.

Indian Minister of Defence Shri Rajnath Singh and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper agreed the dialogue nurtured an already improving defense relationship. “Today’s 2+2 meeting was meaningful and successful in maintaining the momentum of the India-U.S. relationship and taking it forward,” Singh said at a news conference following the event.

The leaders affirmed in a joint statement their shared commitment to a “free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region. That vision includes mutual support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the rule of law, freedom of navigation, peaceful dispute resolution and sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment.

Both parties hailed recent maritime security cooperation, specifically the level of interoperability demonstrated at the Malabar bilateral naval exercise held in September 2019 and the “growing scope and complexity of military cooperation” on display at the November 2019 Tiger Triumph tri-service, amphibious bilateral exercise. The leaders announced at the dialogue that they would conduct Tiger Triumph annually.

India also welcomed the U.S. decision to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure to mitigate the rising threat of natural disasters, the joint statement added.

The defense chiefs voiced their commitment to bolster bilateral service-to-service interaction and cooperation, including closer Army-to-Army and Air Force-to-Air Force ties and possible cooperation between Special Operations Forces. “Our military-to-military cooperation has expanded, and our military exercises have grown in size, scale and complexity,” said Singh, emphasizing his government’s interest to expand the scope of defense cooperation with the U.S. to include the Middle East and Africa.

The leaders emphasized the importance of two recent defense agreements — the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, which helps enable secure communication capabilities between the countries’ Armed Forces; and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement to enable greater geospatial information-sharing. Both are leading to enhanced bilateral defense industry collaboration, as well as additional agreements, which were announced at the dialogue’s close.

“Today, we are proud to conclude the Industrial Security Annex, which will facilitate collaboration between our defense industries by supporting the secure transfer of key information and technology,” Secretary Esper said at the news conference. “We also finalized three agreements under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, which will enhance our ability to co-produce and co-develop critical technologies.”

Both parties condemned terrorism in all forms and jointly called for action against such terrorist networks as al-Qaida and the Islamic State, along with violent extremist groups specifically active in South Asia, including Lashkar e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Haqqani Network and Hizb-ul Mujahideen.

The importance of cyber security cooperation was addressed, with recognition going to the success of recent meetings of the India-U.S. Cyber Dialogue and Information and Communication Technology Working Group. “We held discussions on a range of bilateral and global issues,” Singh said in his closing remarks. “It was heartening to note that as the world’s largest democracies, we have convergence on views on most of them.”

Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.