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The US must continue to invest in its "natural strategic partner" India, nominee for assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said today, noting that the security ties between the two nations was at "its strongest point in history".
Addressing the US lawmakers during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Schriver said the overall relationship between the two nations had strengthened significantly during the last decade.
"I am encouraged by our increasing level of defence collaboration with India," he said.
"I think we must continue to invest in our natural strategic partner, India," Schriver said.
"The designation of India as a 'Major Defence Partner' in 2016 reflects the progress we are making to build a long-term and broad-based strategic partnership, and if confirmed, I will look to build on this progress," he said in a written response to a set of questions during the hearing.
Schriver said it is particularly important that the two expand their co-operation on regional and global security issues, including supporting the US' South Asia strategy and contributing in Afghanistan; expand defence trade under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative; and advance the interoperability of the two militaries to enable strong cooperation.
"I understand that we have made significant progress during the past decade to expand our defence trade and reduce obstacles in our respective bureaucracies to enable closer cooperation, including Foreign Military Sales," Scriver said.
"Given the importance of defence trade in establishing a strong partnership, if confirmed, I am committed to looking at what more the Department of Defence can do to strengthen this component of our relationship," he said.
John C Rood, nominee for Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, said the US-India relationship has strengthened significantly, particularly with regard to security and defence issues.
"I am encouraged by the growing collaboration and the increasing level of technology and trade initiatives and, if confirmed, will look for opportunities to advance the US-India security relationship," he said.
Continued steps to facilitate defence trade and cooperation between the US and Indian industry is an important element of bolstering the overall defence relationship between the two countries, Rood said.
"I believe it is important for senior officials in the US Defence Department to maintain regular high-level exchanges with their counterparts in India's Ministry of Defence and continue efforts to facilitate closer defence cooperation," he added.
"We must also recognise that their aspirations, their vision for the future security architecture of the Asia- Pacific region with China at the centre is, in many ways, at odds with our own aspirations," he said.
"The challenges posed by a rising China are probably the most consequential challenges of my generation," Schriver told the Committee, when top American Senators expressed concern over rapid militarisation of China.
"For this administration's vision for a free and Indo- Pacific to be realised we also have to deal with the rising challenges presented by China," he added.
Senator Jack reed said that while the US must work together with China to counter a nuclear threat from North Korea, it should also work to counter China's attempts to "bully its neighbours in the region" and its failure to abide by the rules-based international order from which it has benefited so greatly.
Observing that ensuring a safe, secure, prosperous and free Indo-Pacific region is a top priority for the United States, Schriver said if confirmed, he will work to continue efforts not only to deter conflict, but also to deter coercion as sovereign countries in the Indo-Pacific region have the right to make decisions freely.
"The Administration is rightly focused on ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region, while also addressing specific challenges, such as those posed by North Korea, managing a rising China and its increasingly assertive attempts to undermine the rules-based order, building stability in South Asia, and confronting the scourge of terrorism wherever it emerges," he said.
"We will not accept Chinese actions that undermine the rules-based order. If confirmed, I will assess the effects of China's growing influence in the region, including on the US security posture, to ensure we are able to maintain the presence and posture that have underpinned US security guarantees, and in turn, regional peace and prosperity for decades," he said.
Upholding freedom of navigation and overflight globally is essential to the economic and national security interests of the United States and all nations in the international community, Schriver said.
He alleged that China is using its cyber capabilities to support intelligence gathering against the US diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support US national defense programmes.
The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China's defense industry and high technology industries.
"I believe the theft of intellectual property through cyber means is a clear threat to the economic prosperity from which in large measure the nation derives its national security.
"Any State that engages in the theft of our intellectual property through cyber means jeopardises both our national security and economic prosperity," he said.
John C Rood nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy said that China is a long-term strategic competitor, engaged in a rapid, comprehensive military modernisation process.
China's military reforms seek to enhance its ability to conduct joint operations and improve its ability to fight high-intensity regional conflicts at greater distances from the Chinese mainland.
China's global interests are growing, and its military will increasingly be called upon to safeguard China's trade, investments, and citizens abroad, he said.