WASHINGTON, August 7, 2014 —
India represents one of the most significant countries in the world today that will help shape a “new world order that is emerging in this young century,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him en route to New Delhi from Germany, Hagel emphasized the relationship between the United States, India and the Asia-Pacific region is important for global interests.
The United States and India need to take initiative on common interests to share and help promote economic stability, security, peace, trade and technology.
“My trip here is to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with a new Indian government,” Hagel told reporters, adding that his last trip to India was in 2008 as a U.S. senator.
“It was pretty clear then the potential for India and what they were evolving toward was going to be very important for our future,” he said.
Hagel emphasized the region surrounding India -- South Asia, where instability exists, on India’s west, and a different kind of world to the east, south and north. “They all represent different challenges and different kinds of challenges for India,” he said.
The sooner the United States and India find ways to participate in areas of mutual benefit and concern, the better, he said, as the United States sees a world continuing to evolve that is uncertain, complicated, dangerous and unpredictable.
“Big power stability and big power security has always been important in the world,” he added, “but it's not going to be diminished in its importance as we look ahead over the next few years.”
The secretary made it clear that he is traveling to India to listen and become acquainted, arriving shortly after Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited, and a month before the new Indian prime minister will be in the United States to meet with President Barack Obama.
“I'm here to pursue different possibilities and options that have been initiated over the years,” Hagel said. “We have a number of specific projects that we will discuss.”
One is the renewal of the 10-year Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, which former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta presented, he said, adding that it built a framework and base for specific proposals the United States is now working on with the Indian government.
“I'm interested in understanding more of their interests and some specific proposals,” Hagel said. “We are doing more than we've ever done military-to-military with India with joint exercises,” he added. “We want to continue to build on [that relationship].”
Hagel said that while he was in the Senate and on the Foreign Relations Committee, he strongly supported the nuclear initiative with India. It was an initiative in the interest of the United States and an opportunity for India to open up its pathway to peaceful commercial nuclear exploration, he explained.
“India and the United States begin with a pretty solid framework of general understanding, especially of democratic values and principles,” Hagel told reporters, noting that India is the world’s oldest democracy. “And that's not an insignificant starting point in foreign policy or foreign relations.”
For up-to-the-minute coverage of the secretary’s trip, follow the Defense Department’s official Twitter account, @DeptofDefense.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)