Besides deepening its military and technical cooperation with India, the Biden administration is keen to help India develop its own defence industrial base to allow it to work with the United States and others in the region.
David Helvey, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said India is a real partner, a rising partner of the US. In 2016, the US recognized India as a “Major Defense Partner” under which Washington will continue to work toward facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.
“We are looking to deepen our military-technical cooperation with India that is based on providing them arms and equipment so we can build interoperable forces and capabilities, and work with India developing its own defence industrial base so that it is able to produce equipment to service their needs and to be able to work with us and others around the region,” Helvey said. “We have a unique designation with India; its called a Major Defense Partner.”
Helvey’s statements come ahead of US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin’s first visit to India from March 19 to 21. This visit is expected to focus on ways to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific and strengthen overall defence and security ties. Austin would be meeting the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other senior national security leaders to discuss deepening the US-India Major Defense Partnership and advancing cooperation between the two countries.
Helvey, during the Congressional hearing, highlighted that Washington was prioritizing looking at ways to operationalize the defense partnership with India to be able to look at ways where both countries can work together in the defence space in pursuit of common interests based on their converging strategic interest.
“One of the things we would like to be able to do is built on some of the foundational agreements that we have been able to conclude with India in recent years,” he said. “Say for example, with information security or logistics arrangements to where we share more information with India so we can build a common strategic understanding of the types of threats that we face together. Look at how we can use our forces and Indian forces in the Indian Ocean region and beyond to be able to work together, whether it’s in maritime domain awareness or maritime security or humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”
Helve added that the partnership with India continues to deepen as the two countries build interoperability through increasingly complex exercises and growing defense trade, and through expanded information sharing and secure communications to address issues of shared concern.