With India being one of the top priorities of the Obama Administration, the US is keen to explore co-production and co-development opportunities in defence with the rising Asian power and expand maritime security cooperation to further strengthen the strategic ties.
“We think there is a strong potential (in Indo-US defense ties). We want to translate that strong potential into action and reality. And that is desired on both sides,” Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar said on the eve of his visit to New Delhi.
“The way you do that is coming to a closer understanding of the strategic picture. We see a natural convergence between India and the United States,” he said.
Leading a high-powered inter-agency delegation, including officials from the State Department, Pentagon and the US Pacific Command, Talwar will travel to India from Monday to co-chair a political-military dialogue with senior officials from External Affairs and Defence ministries.
“We would be discussing, I hope, several topics of regional security in the Indo-Pacific region and we also want to get into discussion of defense trade as well,” he said.
“What you have seen and what you will continue to see is that India is very high up on the agenda. We see a natural convergence between India and the US. We think it is really incumbent on us to try to explore this relationship and try to take as far as we possibly can because we see benefits not only for us, we see them also globally,” he said.
“We think a strong India-US relationship would be good for peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific but also globally,” he said in response to a question.
The talks will focus on regional and maritime security, defence trade, and new areas for strategic cooperation.
Referring to the significant increase in strategic and defense ties, he said defense trade relationship has now gone from virtually zero to USD 10 billion in less than a decade.
“It has grown significantly. We think defense cooperation can go much further and that’s the signal we received from India. They would like to take it further and certainly we would like to as well,” he said.
During his visit, Talwar will seek opportunities to further expand India-US security cooperation, including support for the Department of Defense’s US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative.
“We want to talk about co-production and co-development opportunities. We have been working through the defense trade and technology initiatives on a number of potential projects where one could get into a very sophisticated kind of collaboration and co-operation,” he added.
US aviation giant Boeing last week delivered the sixth P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to India, which is part of multi-billion dollar contract of eight aircraft.
President Barack Obama’s visit in January, Talwar said, reflects the high priority that his administration has placed on deepening and strengthening the partnership with India.