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US designates India as major defence partner

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09 December 2016

India and the United States on Thursday announced a major defence partnership outside the NATO even as the two countries emphasised the need for continued cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

 
US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter meeting the union minister for defence Manohar Parrikar, in New Delhi on 8 December 2016  

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and United States secretary of defence Ashton Carter at their meeting in Delhi on Thursday finalised India's designation as a major defence partner of the United States.

The designation as a major defence partner is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology-sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States' closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future, according to a joint statement.

Carter is in India at the invitation of defence minister Manohar Parrikar and the seventh interaction between the two leaders reviewed the tremendous progress made in bilateral defence ties and discussed the future of India-US security cooperation.

Both sides exchanged views on regional security issues, including the threat posed by terrorism. They agreed to continue further strengthening the bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation and underlined the need to ensure that terror groups receive no patronage from any state.

Citing common values and the shared desire for peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region, the two leaders reflected on the convergence of interests that have driven the strategic and technological ''handshakes'' between our nations, and led to historic progress in bilateral relations.

A joint communique stated, ''India-US defence relations in recent years have moved along a remarkable upward trajectory. Marked progress on agreements, including the signing of a Defense Framework Agreement in 2015, have laid a blueprint for collaboration between our defence establishments and enabled deeper cooperation. Joint exchange opportunities in both personnel and training exercises have expanded and strengthened our bilateral cooperation. The recent signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) has facilitated additional opportunities for practical engagement and exchange.

''Today we finalised India's designation as a ''Major Defence Partner'' of the United States. The designation as a ''Major Defence Partner'' is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States' closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future.''

Defence minister Parrikar and secretary Carter applauded the deepened scope of India-US military-to-military ties, which includes a dramatic increase in defence trade.

On technology transfer, both sides welcomed the tremendous progress achieved under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) and committed to explore new proposals and other innovative opportunities for co-production and co-development. The emergence of DTTI as an integral and enduring component of India-US security cooperation is a sign that the relationship has matured to a level of strategic importance. DTTI will strengthen India's ''Make in India'' initiative and both sides committed to convening all new DTTI working groups prior to the next DTTI Group meeting anticipated for February 2017.

India's `Major Defence Partner' status has also been made a part of the India Amendment in the National Defence Authorisation Act, 2017 (NDAA), approved by the US Congress to allocate funds annually to the US military. This Bill is expected to be passed shortly which will put a formal, official stamp on India's status.

Under the India Amendment in the NDAA 2017, the US government will, consistent with its conventional arms transfer policy, inform the review of requests to export defence articles, defence services, or related technology to India under the Arms Export Control Act, and inform any regulatory and policy adjustments that may be appropriate.

Besides recognising India's status as a major defence partner, the India Amendment will designate an American official to ensure the success of the Framework for the United States-India Defence Relationship which was signed last year, to approve and facilitate the transfer of advanced technology, and to strengthen the effectiveness of the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative and the durability of the India Rapid Reaction Cell in Pentagon.

While the Obama administration had committed to each of these actions, there were concerns that the incoming Trump administration could do away with these India-specific provisions. New Delhi had, therefore, been insisting on some institutional mechanisms to safeguard the gains made over the past two years. The passage of the India Amendment will make it obligatory for the Trump administration to adhere to these commitments.

Carter's farewell visit to India is his seventh interaction with Parrikar, and the two sides ''applauded the deepened scope of India-US military-to-military ties, which includes a dramatic increase in defence trade''.





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