Days ahead of his visit to India, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter today said that the defense ties between the world's two largest democracies has never been as close as it is now with their militaries exercising together by air, land and sea like never before.
"The US-India defense relationship is the closest it's ever been. Through our strategic handshake - with America reaching west in the re-balance, and India reaching east in what Prime Minister Modi calls his Act East policy - our two nations are exercising together by air, land and sea like never before," Carter said in his address to the Regan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Slated to be in India on December 8, Carter would travel to Japan, Bahrain, Israel, Italy and the UK. This is for the first time that an outgoing American Defence Secretary has included India in his itinerary for the final overseas trip.
"We also have a technological handshake - as the US- India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, grasps hands with Prime Minister Modi's Make in India campaign - that's helping our countries move toward more diverse co-development and co-production of weapons systems," Carter said.
Carter would meet Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and other leaders during his trip to New Delhi.
"He (Carter) will look to build on the strategic handshake between the two nations and to continue the momentum in the relationship over the past decade, including expanded defence cooperation during his time as Secretary," the Pentagon had said in a statement last week.
Carter said the US-Japan alliance remains the cornerstone of Asia-Pacific security. "And with our new Defense Guidelines, the US-Japan alliance has never been stronger, or more capable of contributing to security in the Asia-Pacific and beyond," he said.
Carter also reflected on the re-balance strategy of US President Barack Obama. "It will ensure DoD continues to help provide the security necessary for that consequential region - which is home to nearly half the global population and nearly half the global economy - to remain a place where everyone can rise and prosper for decades to come," he said.
"That's been American policy and practice since the end of World War II more than 70 years ago. Regardless of what else was going on at home or in other parts of the world - during Democratic and Republican administrations, in times of surplus and deficit, war and peace - the United States has remained economically, politically, and militarily engaged in the Asia-Pacific," he said.
The US, he said, has long taken a principled and inclusive approach, and collaborated with a network of regional allies and partners to enable security and uphold important principles like resolving disputes peacefully; ensuring countries can make choices free from external coercion and intimidation; and preserving the freedom of overflight and navigation guaranteed by international law.
"Because we did so, out of the rubble of World War II,
economic miracle after miracle has occurred. Think about it....First Japan, then Taiwan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia rose and prospered, and today, China and India are doing the same," Carter said.
That progress has produced incredible changes in the region: populations are growing, education has improved, freedom and self-determination have spread, economies have grown more interconnected, and military spending and cooperation are growing, he added.
"Amid all this remarkable change and progress, America's interests and objectives in the Asia-Pacific have endured: we still want peace, stability, and progress there. But as the region has changed, our approach to how we meet those interests and uphold those enduring principles has had to change along with it," he added.