The last 10 years have had a profound impact on world affairs, affecting not only the US but countries across the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. We now find ourselves at a strategic inflection point in the US, with two forces impinging upon us.
After a decade of conflict, one war has ended in Iraq. The other, in Afghanistan, has not, but will transition soon to Afghan lead — thanks to the superb efforts of the men and women in the US and coalition forces. We have done exceptionally well there.
But, while we have been fighting insurgency and terrorism in the Middle East, the world has not stood still; our friends and enemies have not stood still; and technology has not stood still. The successes we’ve had in Afghanistan, and in counter-terrorism, mean that we can now focus our attention on other opportunities and challenges. The time has come for us in the US to look up, and look out, to what the world needs next, and to the security challenges that will define our future. We would need to make this transition no matter what, but a second force rises as well. That is the need to keep the US fiscal house in order, as outlined under the Budget Control Act passed last year by the US Congress. While the US base defence budget itself will not go down under this plan, neither will it continue to rise as we had planned.
These two forces — of strategic history and fiscal responsibility — led us to design a new defence strategy for the 21st century in a remarkable process this past winter, steered by US President Barack Obama and US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. We are building a force for the future, what (Joint Chiefs of Staff) Chairman (Gen Martin) Dempsey calls the Joint Force of 2020. As Secretary Panetta said, it would be an agile, lean, ready, technologically-advanced force, able to conduct full-spectrum operations and defeat any adversary, anywhere, anytime.
A central tenet of our new strategy is our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. The rebalance is reflected in force structure decisions we make (that is, what we keep and what we cut), in our posture and presence (that is, where we put things), in new investments we are making in technology and weapons systems, in innovative operational plans and tactics, and in alliances and partnerships in the region. Importantly, here in India, our rebalance extends to Southeast Asia and South Asia.
The logic of the rebalance is simple: The Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed an environment of peace and stability for more than 60 years, allowing Japan to rise and prosper, then Korea to rise and prosper, next Southeast Asia to rise and prosper, and now China, in a very different way than India, to rise and prosper. The wellsprings of that security have not been found within the region itself — there’s no NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) here. In the absence of an over-arching security structure, the US military presence has played a pivotal role in ensuring regional stability. We intend to continue to play that role. It is good for us, and it is good for everyone in the region.
Our rebalance is not about China or the US or India or any other single country or group of countries: It is about a peaceful Asia-Pacific region, where sovereign states can enjoy the benefits of security and continue to prosper.
In the future, our Asia-Pacific posture will increase relative to other theaters. We intend to have 60 per cent of our naval assets in the Pacific by 2020. We are developing new concepts of rotational presence, with marines in Australia and four littoral combat ships in Singapore as well as forward stationing in Guam. We are investing in new platforms and technologies... like the new bomber, new submarine-launched conventional weapons, cyber capabilities and a host of upgrades in radars, electronic protection, space and electronic warfare. These and other future-focused investments are another central tenet of our strategy.
To those who doubt we have the resources to accomplish all this, I would, to the contrary, point out two factors that make it eminently possible. First, with Iraq behind us and Afghanistan slated to wind down, capacity will be released that can be allocated to the Asia-Pacific region. Second, within our budget, we can and are prioritising investments relevant to the Asia-Pacific theater rather than, for example, counterinsurgency where we have put so much effort over the last decade. So, the rebalancing is entirely practical...
Finally, central in our new strategy, as in our decades-long historical commitment to the region, we seek to build partnerships that leverage the unique strengths of our allies and partners — to confront critical challenges and meet emerging opportunities. So, we are taking a strategic and comprehensive approach to security cooperation. And, as I will describe in greater detail, we are streamlining our internal processes and security cooperation programmes to share and cooperate with our partners better.
Our partnership with India is a key part of our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, and, we believe, to the broader security and prosperity of the 21st century. You are an economic power with an increasing military capability; and your leadership in civil discourse and democracy is critical to the political stability of South Asia. Our military-to-military engagement has increased steadily over the years, to include a robust set of dialogues, exercises, defence trade and research cooperation.
Our shared challenge in the next era is to find concrete areas to step up our defence cooperation, so that only our imagination and strategic logic, and not administrative barriers, set the pace. That’s why I came with a team of officials who are responsible to Secretary Panetta and me for executing this vision. We need to reinvigorate and commit to maintain a robust set of linkages and working groups that will work every day to enable our cooperation and develop mutual beneficial policies for the future.
We want to knock down any remaining bureaucratic barriers in our defence relationship and strip away the impediments. And, we want to set big goals to achieve.
Excerpts from US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton B Carter’s speech, ‘Towards a Joint Vision for US-India Defence Cooperation’, at the Confederation of Indian Industry, in New Delhi on July 23