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New India-U.S. Arms Agreement, Expanded Exercises Illustrate Growing Security Cooperation

U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis greets Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. DoD Photo

The U.S. strengthened its military relationship with India last week in signing an agreement that allows New Delhi to buy advanced American weapons, share sensitive technology and exchange military information securely and quickly.

“We will continue working together to enhance and expand India’s role as a primary major defense partner to elevate our relationship to a level commensurate without closest allies and partners,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaking at a press conference in New Delhi

A visible part of the stronger military ties will be coming next year when India’s and the U.S. ground, air and naval forces will exercise near India.

“To enhance our synergies in this area, we have decided to carry out for the first time a tri-services joint exercise with the United States off the eastern coast of India in 2019. We are also putting in place an enabling framework for closer cooperation between our defense forces,” Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian defense minister, said at the same press conference.

Both stressed the need for continued maritime cooperation to secure the stability of the Indo-Pacific.

At the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., Cara Abercrombie, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, the announcements of the new partnership and the exercise shows “cooperation is irreversible” and shows Washington now thinks of New Delhi as a co-equal in providing security in the region.

“The unsung hero today is interoperability,” she added from the sharing of common technology to exercising together and the placing of an Indian naval officer in Central Command headquarters.

It also demonstrates to China a stronger commitment by India and the United States to exert influence in the Indo-Pacific militarily through the “Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.”

Worrisome to India has been Beijing’s extended maritime presence close to the subcontinent. For example, China has been operating submarines in the Indian Ocean. It also established a naval base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and Beijing has taken over a Sri Lankan port after it fell into bankruptcy.

India also welcomed the Trump administration’s tougher rhetoric over Pakistan’s need to crack down on terrorism that was being backed up with military support to New Delhi.

Abercrombie said talks to reach this point have been going on for almost 10 years with “baby steps” taken in recent years covering logistics and aircraft. She and others noted at the Hudson Institute event that the talks for broader security cooperation had been shelved twice by the United States in recent months over trade concerns.

U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks at a media event with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pomepo, at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. DoD Photo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed the new agreement as ushering in “a new era” of the relationship and gives India “a unique status” in economic, diplomatic and security relations with the United States.

He also alluded to the general understanding of how to proceed in Afghanistan, where India has provided development aid to Kabul, and the status of negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs during the New Delhi news conference.

The meeting was a first between the defense and foreign ministers of India and the secretaries of defense and state of the United States.

Left unsaid at the press conference was what steps the administration might take if India goes ahead and buys the Russian S-400 air defense. “The U.S. might impose sanctions” for doing what Turkey, a NATO ally, seems on the verge of doing as well, Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, said.

In addition to that possibility, Jeff Smith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said, even though India is decreasing its oil imports from Iran and increasing what it buys from the United State, it could be hit with sanctions for trading with Tehran. Since leaving the Iran nuclear agreement, the administration has threatened to impose sanctions on any nation trading with Tehran.

He noted in the past the United States “not been overbearing” when India, exercising its sovereignty, has bought arms from the former Soviet Union or traded with countries the U.S. has tense relations with.

“I feel fairly confident the United States government will not sanction India” on the Russian missiles if it goes ahead with the buy, Abercrombie said. The U.S. is India’s second largest supplier of arms. Moscow is the largest.

But despite the security harmony, the reality is trade issues between the two have become more fractious in the last eight months, Ayres said. The administration cites the bilateral trade deficit with Washington as a matter that must be resolved. It has also levied tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from India and other countries.

Kapil Sharma, vice president at North America Wipro, an information technology firm, said, “The tension in the relationship” is rising “because they are tackling tough issues” from cutting deficits to growing jobs in both countries. The easier issues had been resolved years ago, he added. He termed the trade relationship as “dynamic.”

  • Duane

    India will be an important partner in restraining Chinese aggression in the coming years and decades. They are a democratic republic, rivaling China in population and economic strength, and growing militarily with a strong stake in freedom of navigation.

    A few years ago we finally stopped kowtowing to Pakistan after we figured out that they were doing more to hurt the war on Islamic terrorism than help. That in turn allowed the US to begin building a security partnership with India. It needs to grow carefully, the Indians aren’t going to jump into bed with us. But it seems to be progressing nicely.

    • NavySubNuke

      I actually agree that India is a good hedge against China but to claim to that India is even close to China in terms of economic strength is laughable at best. They have quite a long way to go before they can even think about rivaling China on an economic front and until that comes to pass they won’t be able to do much to try to match them militarily either.
      Luckily India actually has geography on its side for any potential conflict with China and as they showed during the border dispute over the Doklam Plateau in 2017 they aren’t afraid to directly confront China either.

      • Curtis Conway

        A step in the right direction would be to completely let go of the Russian influence. Their fighter/bomber force is suffering because of this very thing. Although there has been some improvements (manufacture of F-16 wings), India would do well to adopt one of the US manufacturing lines for fighters, and would probably get the most return on their investment by making F-18s.

        • Leroy

          Actually LM has offered to not only sell them the latest F-16V, but has also proposed sending the production line over there. The entire line. People have complained that this doesn’t fit with President Trump’s U.S. manufacturing agenda, but in reality it does.

          The F-16 line will be closing. What better way to maintain American jobs than to continue the line in India while we manufacture sub-components here. That would maintain a large number of high-paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. (better than zero) while bringing India into the Western sphere.

          Combine HAL’s ability to make planes with a new F-16 line and what you’d have is a formidable democratic ally, on our side, able to thwart Chinese expansionism. A win for all like-minded democratic countries worldwide.

          • Curtis Conway

            I am in agreement with your premise, but was pointing out that the Indians need to manufacture an indigenous CATOBAR navy fighter aircraft. Boeing has offered a similar deal as Lockheed’s and the Super Hornet can cover both bases, where an F-16N has never debuted in any successful way.

          • Leroy

            I got ya. Well, I’d recommend they buy F/A-18s from Boeing for their carriers, make the F-16V in India for deployment with their air force.

      • muzzleloader

        And they have nukes.

        • NavySubNuke

          True, though until they iron out their SLBM (and really they are more like SLIRBM) issues or develop a mobile IRBM they are not survivable which should actually really scare China since the lack of a survivable second strike practically forces them into a launch on warning/use or lose mindset.

      • Duane

        O what short memories people have!

        You sniff at India being an economic rival of China, even though India today has the world’s 6th largest economy, while China has the 2nd largest GDP.

        Yet, a mere 13 years ago – 2005 – China’s GDP (5th largest) was less than half of Japan’s (2nd largest), and was less than India’s GDP is in 2018.

        As recently as 2010 – 8 years ago – India’s GDP did not even rank in the top 10. Now India is already up to no. 6.

        Things, and economies, and world rankings can change very quickly.

        It does not seem likely that China can continue growing its economy at the rate of the last 13 years. For every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction.

        China’s neighbors are not kowtowing to China but are banding together to build military defenses and economic alliances. The Trans Pacific Partnership that Trump pulled the US out of is going forward without the US and without China … though unlike China, the US is always welcome to join.

        Trump’s trade war with China is not the way to build economies, but it will surely hurt China, at least in the short run.

        Long term, TPP is the way to go. Get India to join too. And keep excluding China. China’s belt and road unitiative could well come to a crashing halt, and the Chinese economy is already showing signs of a downturn.

        Three decades ago Americans were frightened of being overtaken by Japan. Then Japan stagnated, and now nobody seems to fear Japan any more. That can change too.

        And do not bet against India overtaking China. As China herself proved, even a decade can bring a huge change.

        • tteng

          Just to give you a historical perspective (for exercise, just google ‘India gdp xxxx’ and ‘China gdp xxxx’, xxxx being years (e.g. 1980, 1990 etc). And I used nominal exchange rate.

          1980, India 0.18T, China 0.19T, about 1 : 1
          1990, India 0.32T, China 0.36T, about 1: 1.12
          2000, India 0.46T, China 1.2T, about 1: 2.6
          2010, India 1.65T, China 5.93T, about 1: 3.6
          2017, India 2.6T, China 12.24T, about 1: 4.7

          As you can see, the gap has actually gotten wider for the last ~40 years, not closer.

        • NavySubNuke

          You have a consistent problem between differentiating between what is true today and what might be true in the future. I am not sure if it is just a product of your old age or your lack of intelligence but you the fact that India might one day be an economic rival of China doesn’t mean that India is an economic rival of China today.

    • DaSaint

      Agree with much of what you say, but India is nowhere near rivaling China in economic strength. Part of the difference is that in China, they can create cities and economic districts with no regard of the population, and with no chance of public outcry. India is a mess, and as a Democratic country, not figured out how to impose the same policies that would make it as competitive with an authoritarian regime, and probably never will. Their electronics industry is still nascent. Their aviation industry is mature, but unsophisticated. Their shipbuilding quality isn’t nearly as good as China, South Korea or even Vietnam. That said, they are making some progress, and their efforts to force international arms manufacturers to have 100% offsets or build in the country is one way to make that happen. Not that it’s working as yet.

      But India, a former British colony, and still a member of the Commonwealth, has always retained ties with the UK, so getting closer to them isn’t that hard. With British assistance, and with the British realignment to Asia, it will be easier to forge a UK-India-Australia-New Zealand hedge against China, supporting our other allies in the region.

      One hope that I have is that with the USN and Indian Navies getting closer, we will be able to more closely analyze Russian systems and Russo-Indian weaponry, such as the BRAHMOS supersonic Anti-ship missile.

      • NavySubNuke

        Excellent points!

        • DaSaint

          Thanks NSN!

      • Duane

        Actually, India IS a rival of China, economically, just as is Japan. India has the world’s 6th largest GDP, while Japan is the third largest GDP. Just as China is an economic rival to the US, even though the US economy is far larger than China’s. Every nation in the top ten is a rival to each other.

        You need to justify your statement that “India is a mess”. India, unlike China, is a democratic republic with a strong parliamentary government with a real rule of law. It started out as a independent nation with the partitioning in 1947, after which it had to bear a massive influx of refugees from what is now Pakistan, and was mired in poverty with little industry but exploitative colonial era industry and no education. A growing industrial base and middle class have characterized India in recent years, while they managed to avoid massive oppression of their population as used by Mao and his kleptocratic toadies.

        India is on a much more positive footing for future growth and development, while China remains mired in mass corruption and wasted spending. India is not busy trying to disrupt and dominate her neighbors, while China is. Even China’s much vaunted “belt and road initiative” has proven to have so many strings attached that that it mostly benefits corrupt, connected Chinese contractors who are in bed with Chinese government leaders.

        I’d say that China is much more “messed up” than India, even if at this snapshot in time they are wealthier than India. In 30 years, or perhaps as little as 10 years, the Indians may well surpass China’s wealth. Free nations tend to be wealthier than despotic nations in the long run.

        Maybe we can help them along by buying less from China and more from India

        • DaSaint

          Not arguing that China’s rise was ‘clean’ or democratic. It wasn’t nor isn’t. Nor saying that they’re not a rival to China, they are. And I know all about the partitioning between India, a predominantly Hindu country, and Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country.

          India is a democracy, with issues. From women’s (and especially young girls)rights to a prevalent caste system, to poor infrastructure and health conditions and on and on. But they are a democracy and for that there’s hope.

          I’m not speaking without first hand knowledge. And I COMPLETELY agree that we should buy more from India than from China. So let’s tell our Captains of industry in the Fortune 1000 to relocate to India instead of China to make that happen. It can, but will it? Not until the infrastructure is more reliable and more widespread.

  • Hugh

    Include Australia in navy, airforce and army exercises.

    • NavySubNuke

      Agreed – along with Japan and Korea. The more we can do to get India, Australia, Korea, and Japan along with other partners like Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines to work together with us to hold the line against China the better.

    • DaSaint

      And the UK, still historically their closest western ally.

  • Ed L

    India has bought weapons systems from England, Russia, France, Italy, Israel and the United States for decades . As well as manufacturing industries of their own that produces Smalls Arms, Fighter Aircraft, Armored Fighting Vehicles And Naval Vessels including operating three sail Training vessels the INS Varuna commission 1981, the INS Sudarshini commission 1997 and the INS Tarangini which sailed around the world visiting many American ports north and south

  • Leroy

    Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. would be a good start to the rebirth of SEATO, a much needed alliance of democracies that could be used to counter China’s aggressive, destabilizing activities throughout the entire Indo-Pacific.

    If democracies don’t stand up for each other, future growth and worldwide expansion of the PLAN, PLA AF, and PLA could put the entire world at grave risk for future war. Beijing will only become a growing threat, not a receding one, as their actions in the South China Sea shows with perfect clarity.

    • PolicyWonk

      If democracies don’t stand up for each other, future growth and worldwide expansion of the PLAN, PLA AF, and PLA could put the entire world at grave risk for future war.
      ====================================
      You might want to tell the current incumbent of the oval office, because he seems to disagree (and your observation is correct).

      Otherwise, he seemingly wouldn’t be insulting and/or angering our allies, and/or starting major trade disputes with the nations that can help us achieve our goals before we achieved them. Other nations in the world all view foreign policy and trade as two directly related entities, and approach them with integrated strategies.

      Ours views them as discreet, independent transactions – thereby directly sabotaging his own stated policy goals (N. Korea being an excellent example: he’s not going to get cooperation from the Chinese on N. Korea when he’s firing up a major trade war).

      • Leroy

        Fairness and equity in trade and NATO defense spending. That’s what POTUS wants.

        We’ve been abused for decades by both friend and foe – financially. I for one am glad we have a President who is finally willing to address the problem head-on.

        I don’t believe he, today, wants to break these alliances that bind us. Perhaps he did, perhaps that was his way of negotiation by using scare tactics. IDK. But it seems to be working because NATO is spending more and we are winning these trade diputes.

        Kim is coming back to the table for a second time – with the ROK President – supposedly to discuss the signing (or timetable for signing) a peace treaty. President Trump would probably win the Nobel for that! What would you critics say then? To that and 5% GDP growth?

        He’s digging us out of a number of holes we’re in – the biggest being 20T in debt (grow GDP, that will in a year or so grow tax receipts to the Treasury, then we can meet Social Security, Medicare, defense and decrease the horrible debt/deficit).

        Frankly, other than objecting to his obvious lack of moral character when he was a civilian (compare that to what President Clinton did in the Oval Office!), I don’t know what you anti-Trump folks are complaining about!

        • PolicyWonk

          Addressing problems with NATO’s spending, and/or trade inequities are policies I can align with. But his methods are questionable, as it is clear there isn’t any strategy for addressing foreign and/or policy, and he’s only been consistently shooting himself in the foot, while the international reputation of the USA is getting crushed.

          Addressing deficits and/or national debt is a joke, given the budget in combination with the tax breaks for the ultra wealthy on the backs of the middle class, which will crush the economy in the long run. You might recall, he was too lazy to read the summary of the budget he signed, which didn’t allocate one cent to building the wall that Mexico is supposed to pay for.

          W/r/t to morality: Trump is perhaps the only candidate on the plant to who can make the Clinton’s look as pure as driven snow.

          Kim wants the peace treaty that Trump has so far failed to deliver. And he’d better study up this time (he didn’t last time, or before he met with Putin to toss our Intelligence Services under the bus) because he failed miserably last time (all anyone has to do is watch that press conference after the “summit”: if Obama had a presser like that after conceding so much to Kim, the GOP would’ve impeached him and had the gallows built before AF1 was wheels down on US soil – and rightly so).

          Cheers.

          • Leroy

            No, you are way too hard on this POTUS, and refuse to acknowledge his accomplishments. GDP growth over 4%, record low unemployment, future increases in tax receipts coming due to GDP growth, funding the military, pushing NATO to spend minimum amounts of money for the alliance’s common defense, removing needless economy-killing regulations, leading us to energy independence, his DPRK initiative, Veterans Affairs budget increases, lower tax rates for the middle class, cutting corporate tax rates to invigorate CAPEX spending, repatriation of offshore jobs, repatriation of trillions in corporation’s offshore money, increased attention to border security and illegal immigration, drawing red lines and holding to them … I could go on but why bother. You have decided to ignore every single accomplishment he’s made and focus on ether. You are simply wrong. You must be a liberal posting from America-hating Europe! Too bad you are blinded to truth.

            Cheers to you too.

          • PolicyWonk

            Wrong: I’m a traditional conservative. The reputable economists of the world all declare that Trump is taking credit for the economic foundation laid down by President Obama (Trump hates it, but that just adds to the entertainment).

            The lower tax rates for the middle class are a joke (these amount to “lunch money”), and those are only temporary. In a few years, the middle class with be paying tooth and nail to make up for the budget-busting tax breaks, and that is an economic fact.

            Those economy killing regulations were designed to prevent another economic disaster at the hands of the banksters who along with the incompetent GOP, caused the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Those fools learned nothing, and its all there for you to read in the CBO Report on The Causes Of The Great Recession.

            Coal is a pathetic waste of time and money, and there isn’t any market for it. Bush tried to resurrect coal, and so did Obama: but no one was buying. Clean energy supplies billions of dollars in new revenues, provides us with energy independence, and employs millions of people – vastly more than coal ever will again.

            Trump doesn’t understand business (if he did, he wouldn’t have gone bankrupt so many times); he doesn’t get foreign policy; he doesn’t understand government; he’s too lazy to do his homework (and it shows); and he’s damaging US interests around the world.

            In short: he’s incompetent.

            If by expecting serious results and leadership from a chief executive makes me a liberal, I could care less. At least, it doesn’t make me a fool.

          • Leroy

            No, I am sorry but your assessment is that of a foolish commenter who doesn’t believe what he sees happening right before his eyes, and it’s all President Trump. President Obama is not to be given credit for this economy, and he was a failure in foreign relations and as concerns racial divisions in this country – which he and his Administration, especially Eric Holder, stoked.

          • PolicyWonk

            President Trump said that his followers shouldn’t believe what they see/hear with their own eyes/ears – and you seem willing to believe a lot of BRAVO SIERRA.

            But w/r/t Obama and the economy, try this simple exercise:

            1. Compare the state of the union inherited by George W Bush to the one inherited by Barack Obama.
            2. Compare the state of the union inherited inherited by Obama to the one inherited by Trump.

            Any questions? 😀

            When it comes to foreign policy, Obama wasn’t without his faults. On the bright side: at least he did his homework and studied up on the issues.

            Trump, OTOH, is in a league of his own, giving aid and comfort to our enemies as he sucks up to commies and dictators, as he makes a royal mess of the reputation of the USA on an global level.

            He is fundamentally clueless, because he thinks trade wars and diplomacy are distinct, and keeps repeating the same mistakes (i.e. he’s NOT learning). He is lazy, and refuses to read his briefing books that his aids prepare for him. For example, NATO ministers were instructed to “dumb down” their presentations to account for his short attention span.

            Hence – he looks like a buffoon, to be generous.

            This level of incompetence is indeed staggering, as he continues to make his supporters (let alone the USA) look foolish, and unreliable.

          • Leroy

            You are an anti-Trump fanatic, and you’ll never make way for genuine honest discussion. Take this statement of yours:

            “The lower tax rates for the middle class are a joke …”

            Now the Republicans and President Trump are going to try and make these tax cuts permanent. The Democrats will oppose them, because they never met a tax they didn’t like. Anyway, you say the middle class is hurting under POTUS? That’s a lie, and lo and behold, look at what the Washington Post (certainly not a paper that supports the President) has to say about the status of the middle class:

            Middle-class income rose above $61,000 for the first time last year, U.S. Census Bureau says

            “Middle-class income rose to the highest recorded levels in 2017 and the national poverty rate declined as the benefits of the strong economy lifted the fortunes of more Americans, the U.S. Census reported Wednesday.”

            The median U.S. household earned $61,372 last year, meaning half of the families in the country brought in more income than this and half earned less.

            Crossing the $61,000 mark signals the American middle-class may have finally earned more than it did in 1999 …”.

            It’s not worth arguing with you people who still cannot accept the results of the last Presidential election, or the many accomplishments of this Administration. You are no different than a fanaticized Islamist. And on that I’ll end my part in this useless back-and-forth.

          • PolicyWonk

            Oh, awesome! This means my “lunch money” tax break will be made permanent? Excellent! But NOT at the cost of the economic health of the republic – and Trump’s economic incompetence is going to KILL the USA, according to virtually every reputable economist out there.

            I love how you denigrate those who are fiscal conservatives: it demonstrates your lack of understanding of basic math, or abject greed, neither of which is flattering.

            None of these so-called “accomplishments” acquired is worth the damage to the republic at the hands of a mentally ill, deeply incompetent man, and his ultra-corrupt co-conspirators. This man is little more than Putin’s puppet, surrounded by the most deeply corrupt and anti-American cabal of criminals and incompetents in US history. The direct attacks on the US Constitution, and flouting of American laws; Abuses of power, the legal system and DoJ, and freedoms this nation has enjoyed for centuries are being attacked daily – but that’s not a concern to you.

            Are you even a loyal American? If you ever were, you aren’t much of one now. And if you took the oath, you are in violation of it, as is your cult leader.

            I accepted the results of the election and wished the man well, because I’m an AMERICAN above all, and want to see the nation do well REGARDLESS of whoever sits in the Big Chair. If you don’t, then you need to rethink your priorities.

            But this man is incapable, virtually his entire staff and everyone else who has come into contact with him says so (and all one needs is eyes, ears, and reasonable amount of intelligence to see it for themselves), and the only ones who claim otherwise are the blind cultists who are too insecure or full of hate of this nation to admit they blew it.

            BTW – what’s it like to have to get up every day, dreading having to read the news about some other horrible scandal, some tragic event, a new violation of the US constitution, a new set of laws broken, or maybe a press conference where this man makes a fool of himself and his supporters – that you feel you have to defend?

            Продолжайте работать, товарищ!