With the change of administration in Washington, the U.S. and India are strengthening their defense and strategic ties. National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior members of his government in New Delhi this week to talk bilateral cooperation in the defense sector and combatting global terrorism. “The United States and India reaffirmed a strategic partnership that involves not only a growing defense relationship but also shared perspectives of the region.” Indian newspaper Economic Times reported.

Last month, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was in Washington to meet the U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis. These high level visits are expected to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the Washington later this summer. New Delhi-based Economic Times writes:

The United States and India reaffirmed a strategic partnership that involves not only a growing defence relationship but also shared perspectives of the region.

Rounding off his first regional visit, US NSA, HR McMaster held talks with prime minister Narendra Modi, NSA, Ajit Doval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar. According to the PMO, the two sides “exchanged views on how both countries can work together to effectively address the challenge of terrorism and to advance regional peace, security and stability.”

A statement by the US embassy said the US reaffirmed India’s status as “major defence partner”. “The two sides discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including their shared interest in increasing defense and counterterrorism cooperation. The visit was a part of regional consultations that included stops in Kabul and Islamabad.” (…)

On the issue of Afghanistan, Indian sources said there appeared to be a continuation of US policy, based primarily on counter-terrorism and supporting building up of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). “We both want the same outcomes in Afghanistan. The difference is in our resources and approach,” said high level sources.

Despite India’s past dependence on Soviet military equipment, the U.S.-India defense ties quickly made up for the years lost in the Cold War. Under President George W. Bush’s term the U.S. became a leading source of defense procurement for Indians. However, diplomatic ties took a nose-dive under President Obama’s first term. President Obama’s policy of “all carrot and no stick” in dealing with Islamist aggression — especially in the case of Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross-border terrorism — angered many in the Indian defense establishment.

The U.S.-India defense trade grew from $200 million in 2000 to over $15 billion by 2016. The U.S.-India strategic ties also grew under Bush era. A fact much overlooked by the commentators, the Bush administration also played a key role in getting India and Israel relations off the ground — a valuable geo-strategic alliance in the war against global Jihadi terrorism.

Prime Minister Modi intends to open up India’s defense manufacturing to private players and free-market competition. Under its “Make in India” initiative, the Modi government is encouraging foreign manufacturers to set up R&D and manufacturing units in India. Lockheed Martin, Boeing India and Raytheon are major foreign investors in PM Modi’s defense modernisation plan. The Indian private sector is also keen to strengthen manufacturing ties with U.S. defense companies.  India’s Tata Group has entered into a joint-venture with Lockheed Martin to manufacture C-130J Super Hercules airframe parts.

President Trump’s campaign rhetoric against Islamic terrorism was met with strong approval among Hindus in the U.S. and India. His electoral victory was widely welcomed in India, with Hindu groups organizing a victory procession in India’s capital New Delhi.

India has faced a sustained Jihadi campaign for more than three decades now. Terrorists have killed some 5,000 civilians and over 2,000 soldiers in India since 2001 alone. With Trump’s victory, India hopes to receive stronger diplomatic and military support from the U.S. in combatting Islamist terror in the region.

Video: US-India joint military training exercise in northern India (2016):


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