The cooperation between the navies of India and the U.S. is one of the most dynamic and significant components of the bilateral defence ties, India’s envoy here has said, underlining that the defence sector has emerged as a major pillar between the two countries, especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific.
Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu’s remarks came during the historic visit of INS Satpura to San Diego last week.
INS Satpura is an indigenously designed and built 6000-tonne guided missile stealth frigate equipped to seek and destroy adversaries in air, surface, and underwater. Reflective of the growing defence ties between India and the United States, this is for the first time that an Indian Naval Warship docked itself on the U.S. West Coast and maybe two decades after that an Indian ship came to the United States.
“Navy-to-Navy cooperation is one of the most dynamic and significant components of our defence partnership. This is strengthening further, in the context of the Indo-Pacific,” Sandhu said in his remarks last week in San Diego.
“The expanding scope of engagements, with the U.S. Navy, especially the annual Malabar series of exercises, and the multinational engagements, such as MILAN 22 and the recently concluded RIMPAC 22, (that I had the opportunity to attend), reinforces our trust and interoperability at sea,” he said aboard INS Satpura.
The reception among others was attended by Secretary of Navy Carlos Del Toro, Vice Admiral Kenneth Ray Whitsell, Commander of Naval Air Forces.
India-U.S. strategic partnerships
In his remarks, Sandhu said among the diverse fields, that India-U.S. comprehensive global strategic partnership encompasses the defence sector, which has emerged as a major pillar. The U.S. has recognised India, as a “Major Defence Partner”.
In 2016, the U.S. recognised India as a ‘Major Defence 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.
There has been steady intensification, in defence trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, defence technology, and cooperation in maritime security, and counter-piracy.
“Our defence trade has expanded, to over 21 billion. Today, India conducts more military exercises with the U.S., than with any other country! In fact, as I speak, the Special Forces of the two countries are currently engaged in India-U.S. joint Special Forces Exercise, Vajra Prahar in Himachal Pradesh in India,” Sandhu said.
“We are also moving forward to leverage, our comparative advantages, and the opportunity for defence industrial collaboration, especially to innovate, co-develop, and co-produce, for India and for the world. In a first, the U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) ship USNS Charles Drew, is currently undergoing maintenance and repair, in Chennai,” he told the select audience.
The United States, he reiterated, has been one of its most important partners for India in the international arena. As India marks its 75th anniversary of independence, it is also celebrating another important milestone – 75 years of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
Be it in agriculture or in education or in space or in healthcare collaboration with the U.S., has been highly consequential.
“Our bilateral engagement has become, truly win-win with strong convergences and complementarities, including India’s talent, and young population, low-cost manufacturing that can scale, large market, investment incentives, etc., on the one hand, and U.S. technology and innovation, on the other,” he said.
India, the U.S. and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.