US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said India and United States should not let “bureaucratic red tape” thwart the momentum of defence partnerships between the world’s two largest democracies.
Hagel wrapped up his three-day New Delhi visit after meeting with his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday in an effort to push military trade with India’s new right-wing government.
“Bureaucratic red tape within either of our governments must not bound the limits of our partnership for our nations,” said Hagel in an address to a Delhi-based think tank.
“Yesterday there was a common theme in my discussions with Indian leadership,” Hagel said.
“We agreed that pursuing next steps in our partnership we have to be result-oriented and build momentum with concrete achievements.”
He emphasised that the defence partnership between India — the world’s biggest arms importer — and the United States must focus on strengthening “military-to-military relations”, “re-energising defence industrial cooperation” and “expanding regional cooperation”.
His visit comes ahead of Modi’s first official visit to Washington next month.
The US welcomed India’s recent proposal to raise the limit on foreign direct investment in defence to 49 per cent from 26 per cent, a move that Hagel said would help the defence ties between the two democracies reach their “full potential”.
He said that even as Washington and New Delhi tried to manage competition with China, they should avoid “traps of rivalry” with the Asian giant and focus on regional stability.
“India need not choose between closer partnership with America and improved ties with China,” Hagel said.
However, he added that India and the US should consider expanding security cooperation with Japan for joint naval exercises.
Indian officials said New Delhi and Washington were close to finalising a $1.4-billion deal to buy at least 22 US Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters.