Observing that the partnership between India and the US has significantly strengthened, a top Pentagon official said today that the two countries have an increasing convergence of interests, including on maritime domain awareness.
"The US-India partnership has strengthened significantly during the past two decades, driven by our shared values and a growing convergence of interests. The partnership enjoys broad political support in both countries," Joseph Felter III, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia, told PTI.
Felter, who until recently was the director of the Hacking for Defence Project at Stanford's Centre for International Security and Cooperation, was appointed to this key Pentagon position by the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis last month.
In this capacity, he will be Mattis's point person for South and Southeast Asia.
"The US and India are natural partners on a range of political, economic, and security issues," he said, acknowledging the significance of the bilateral defence ties.
"With a mutual desire for global stability, the US and India have an increasing convergence of interests, including on maritime domain awareness, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and coordinated response to natural disasters and transnational threats," Felter said.
A former Army Special Forces officer and a graduate of the US Military Academy, Harvard Kennedy School, and Stanford University, Felter previously was the co-director of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, and research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Responding to a question, he underscored the importance of increasing joint military exercise between the ramies of the two countries.
"The value of military exercises and bilateral activities cannot be overstated. We enjoy an ongoing exercise schedule with India to include the annual Army-to-Army exercise YUDH ABHYAS and the annual Navy-to-Navy exercise MALABAR, that now includes the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force," he said.
"We welcomed India's first participation since 2009 this year in the Air Force exercise RED FLAG-Alaska and look forward to re-establishing exercise COPE INDIA in 2018. We also enjoy their participation in the large multinational exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC)," Felter said.
In a recent joint report to the Congress, the departments of defence and state said these exercises will help enable the US and India to have an effective combined response to missions such as providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, countering piracy, and responding to transnational threats and terrorism.
The report said that the strategic partnership rests on shared democratic values, security interests, and strong people-to-people ties.
"The myriad of defence cooperation activities and, unique to India, Defence Technology and Trade Initiative and Major Defence Partner designation, attest to the importance both countries place on the defence relationship. The momentum behind the relationship and converging security interests will result in a more secure Indo-Asia-Pacific region and beyond," the report said.