Washington, Apr 12 (PTI) India and the US have reaffirmed their ambitions for building an advanced and comprehensive defence partnership in which militaries of the two nations coordinate closely together across all domains.
In a joint statement issued after the conclusion of the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue here on Monday, the two sides commended the significant and continuing progress in the India-US Major Defence Partnership. “Drawing on the momentum from the India-US Defence Policy Group meeting in October 2021, they reaffirmed their ambitions for building an advanced and comprehensive defence partnership in which the US and Indian militaries coordinate closely together across all domains,” the statement said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation for 2+2 Ministerial, while the US side was represented by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. As information-sharing forms an important pillar of the India-US defence cooperation, the ministers underlined the importance of building a comprehensive framework under which our militaries are equipped to exchange information in real-time across domains.
At a joint press conference, Singh said that the two countries had a very meaningful and in-depth discussion during the 2+2 Ministerial. “This will help in maintaining the momentum of India-US relationship and taking our work forward. Our two great nations have complementary interests and a shared will to achieve mutual goals,” Singh said. “We had discussions on a range of bilateral, defence and global issues. It was heartening to note that as world’s largest democracies, we have convergence of views on most of them. Both India and the US share a common vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. “Our partnership is of critical importance for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region,” Singh said.
During the meeting, Singh said he shared “our assessments of the situation in our neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean Region.” The use of terrorism as an instrument of statecraft against India came up prominently, the defence minister added. During the meeting, India’s focus on developing its domestic capabilities and helping to ensure reliable defence supplies was highlighted. The ministers said they were committed to work closely across their respective governments on co-production, co-development, cooperative testing of advanced systems, investment promotion, and the development of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities in India.
The ministers also acknowledged the importance of deepening collaboration in science and technology in the India-US Joint Technical Group (JTG), and in evolving new defence domains, including space, artificial intelligence (AI), and cyber. They underscored the importance of cooperation in space and welcomed plans to conduct an inaugural Defence Space Dialogue in 2022. They welcomed the second Defence Cyber Dialogue held in 2021 and look forward to the next round this year.
They decided to hold an inaugural AI Dialogue this year to harness opportunities for joint innovation and cooperation in new domains. The ministers also discussed additional training opportunities for their respective militaries, and the United States welcomed enhanced Indian participation in advanced courses across these emerging domains. They welcomed the progress made toward full implementation of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) to support the exchange of geospatial information.
They noted that information exchange and placement of liaison officers in each other’s military organisations will spur joint service cooperation between our militaries to support integrated and multi-domain cooperation. Acknowledging that their navies have been a driving force in advancing the US and India’s shared interests in the Indian Ocean Region and the wider Indo-Pacific, they discussed opportunities to further advance and deepen maritime cooperation, including in underwater domain awareness.
The United States also welcomed India’s decision to join the Combined Maritime Forces Task Force as an Associate Partner to expand multilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean. The ministers lauded the 2022 Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange, which India and the United States co-hosted to bring together experts from 38 countries to discuss challenges and solutions to military medical issues. Both sides look forward to India’s co-hosting of the Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (IPACC) and Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) in 2023.
In support of the Indian military’s expanding operational reach and emerging opportunities for cooperation in the Indian Ocean and the wider region, the ministers welcomed regular bilateral logistics operations such as replenishments at sea, air-to-air and ground-refuelling and committed to increasing such cooperation, including through the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).
Both sides reaffirmed the importance of regular bilateral and multilateral exercises, including the Malabar exercise with the inclusion of Australia, the tri-service Tiger Triumph exercise, the multilateral Milan naval exercise, the bilateral Yudh Abhyas and Vajra Prahar Army exercises, the bilateral COPE India air exercise, and Indian participation in Red Flag. They supported increasing the scope and complexity of these exercises. They looked forward to deepening cooperation between the Special Forces of both countries.
Recognising the importance of building robust private industry collaboration, the ministers welcomed ongoing projects under the auspices of the India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), including a project agreement to co-develop air-launched UAVs. They called on both sides to consider additional DTTI projects, such as a counter-unmanned aerial systems (UAS) system and an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) platform. They also lauded the rapid growth in bilateral defence trade over the past decade.
Seeking trusted and resilient defence supply chains, the ministers welcomed the progress made towards the implementation of the Industrial Security Agreement to facilitate collaboration on cutting edge defence technologies between industries. Both sides would explore and further promote the means to encourage reciprocal participation of US and Indian vendors in each other’s defence supply chains, the statement said.
To further enhance defence industrial cooperation in the naval sector, both sides agreed to explore possibilities of utilising the Indian shipyards for repair and maintenance of ships of the US Maritime Sealift Command (MSC) to support mid-voyage repair of US Naval ships. They applauded the recent and upcoming meetings of the India-US Cyber Dialogue and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Working Group to deepen cybersecurity cooperation. They strongly condemned ransomware and other cyber-related crimes and recognised the need to bolster the protection of critical networks and infrastructure.
Recalling their countries’ strong tradition of space exploration and endeavours, they announced the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding on Space Situational Awareness and pledged to expand bilateral space cooperation, acknowledging the pivotal role international cooperation plays in the long-term sustainability and safety of the outer-space environment.
They applauded the ongoing development of the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite, planned for launch from India in 2023. The NISAR mission will collect data vital to tackling the climate crisis. The ministers also looked forward to the convening of the next India-US Civil Space Joint Working Group in 2022.
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