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NSC Official: U.S. – India Security Relationship ‘Tremendous Opportunity’ for Next Administration

Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar (left) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (center) observe flight operations on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). US Navy Photo

Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar (left) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (center) observe flight operations on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). US Navy Photo

The evolving relationship between the United States and India in terms of trade and security presents “a tremendous opportunity to the next administration,” the National Security Council’s senior official for South Asia said Wednesday.

Peter Lavoy told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think-tank, there is “growing convergence on regional issues” between the two democracies as well as a shared interest in a secure and developing Afghanistan and a broadening security partnership.

Over the past 10 years, “we’ve built habits of cooperation about almost every problem in the world” from climate change to counterterrorism to maritime security, including freedom of navigation and overflights in the South China Sea.

He noted one-third of the bulk cargo and two-thirds of petroleum exports [about 40 percent of global trade] pass through the Indian Ocean.

The relationship is “voluntary and it continues to grow.” Lavoy said “We need to deepen that partnership” and broaden it.

Lavoy was speaking as the center released its latest report on the future relationship.

Looking at the security sector, he pointed to the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative as an example of how it has “matured more quickly in the last eight years than at any other time in history.” He said it gives “both sides a greater understanding of our systems” on licensing, co-design and co-production in antisubmarine warfare, aircraft and possibly aircraft carriers. “This is unique.”

Lavoy cited the recent logistics agreement as another means through which “India will find the United States a steady partner” in supplying advanced equipment such as Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy-transport helicopters.

At the same time, both nations are participating in a variety of bilateral and multilateral military exercises in the Indian and Pacific oceans, including Rim of the Pacific, that build understanding of how each operates. That knowledge also can be used in operations such as the 2015 evacuation of hundreds of diplomats and businessmen from the fighting in Yemen and providing humanitarian relief in Nepal following a devastating earthquake.

He also mentioned agreements on counterterrorism that will better share information and training of homeland security forces and a framework on cyber policy.

Both nations have made “monumental efforts to overcome specific areas of mistrust” in nuclear energy, space and cyber.

The report noted the strong personal relationships between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Department and Defense Ministry officials as propelling the relationship to new levels of cooperation and understanding. Its authors said it was very important to signal the American commitment to further the partnership within 100 days of the new administration taking office.

John Schaus, one of the report’s authors, said, “India is stepping out in ways not seen 10 to 15 years ago” and the cooperation between the United States and India is not simply over regional security concerns.

Among the recommendations in the report were to broaden the security dialogue among the United States, India and Japan to include Australia and enhance India’s maritime domain awareness capabilities.