A report by the United States Department of Defence submitted to Congress this week suggested that India remained the “primary target” of LeT, the militant group from Pakistan that is held responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
This assessment, contained in the Report to Congress on U.S.-India Security Cooperation, was accompanied by strong arguments made in favour of deepening India-U.S. cooperation in the defence sector.
Key among these arguments was the suggestion that the U.S. ought to share “top-of-the-line technology” with India, as exemplified by the case of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter programme. According to the DoD the JSF, also known as the F-35 Lightning II Programme, has advanced airframe, autonomic logistics, avionics, propulsion systems, stealth, and firepower, which will “ensure that the F-35 is the most affordable, lethal, supportable and survivable aircraft ever to be used by so many war-fighters across the globe.”
In this context the DoD report indicated that although the U.S.’ F-16 and F-18 were not down-selected, in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition in April 2011, “Should India indicate interest in the JSF, the U.S. would be prepared to provide information on the JSF and its requirements... to support India’s future planning.”
In the vital area of counterterrorism cooperation the DoD report noted that LeT’s activities “continue to threaten U.S. interests and South Asian regional stability,” and hence the U.S. would join with key partners such as India, “to expand counterterrorism cooperation... and our current special operations engagements in the region will continue to focus on the mutually beneficial ways in which we can enhance each other’s capabilities.”
In addition to expanding defence trade and armaments cooperation the DoD report argued that there was a continuing case for bolstering military-to-military engagements. In addition to counterterrorism cooperation this imperative would require continued focus on combined exercises, personnel exchanges and training, maritime domain awareness, countering piracy humanitarian assistance, disaster response and relief and naval and coast guard cooperation, the report noted.