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Joint Press Briefing by Secretary Carter and Minister Parrikar in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Press Operations

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Indian Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar
December 10, 2015
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Well, good morning, everyone.

As many of you know, Minister of Defence Parrikar hosted me in India last year.  It's now my pleasure to return the favor, to welcome my friend Manohar to the Pentagon for his first official visit and to continue strengthening the defense ties between our two nations.

I want to thank the minister personally for his close relationship and hard work in securing the historic steps we've taken this year.  The growing strategic partnership between the United States and India is one that's rooted in shared ideals, mutual interests, and a spirit of innovation.

In June, we affirmed our commitment to stronger defense ties when Minister Parrikar and signed the 2015 framework which charts a course for this relationship for the next decade.

What we see going on between our two countries is a handshake of two complementary initiatives:  India's Make in India policy, and the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, and also India's Act East policy, and American's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

One important step -- very important step in realizing the potential of our partnership is through the Defense, Technology and Trade initiative, which fosters technology cooperation, works to build industry-to-industry ties, and it identifies opportunities for the co-development and co-production of defense systems.

For instance, today, Minister Parrikar and I discussed the progress that has been made towards cooperation on jet engines, and aircraft carrier design and construction, as well as opportunities to collaborate on additional projects of interest, which will also further Prime Minister Modi's Make in India policy.

We also discussed the importance of expanding our military engagements, from the annual Malabar naval exercise this year, to India's participation in the rim of the Pacific exercise next year.  And return, for the first time in eight years, to Red Flag, the premier air-to-air combat exercise.

I was honored to be the first secretary of defense to visit an India operational military command when I went to Vizag. So, I'm pleased that on his way to Washington, Minister Parrikar was able to meet senior military leaders in Hawaii, becoming the first Indian defense minister to visit U.S. Pacific Command.

Later this afternoon, we'll observe live flight exercises on the USS Eisenhower, making Minister Parrikar the first Indian defense minister to go about a U.S. aircraft carrier.

This speaks not just our important aircraft carrier technology cooperation, but to our expanding cooperation in maritime security, as well.

Of course, the Indo-Asia-Pacific is one of the most consequential parts of the world for America's future.  And we welcome India's rise as a security partner in the region -- a region where half of humanity lives, and half of the world's economic activity takes place.

Through our meetings today and expanded cooperation in the days to come, the U.S.-India defense partnership will become an anchor of global security, as together, we work towards a common future, a common future between the United States and India that is destined.

This is a relationship that will be critical in strengthening the Asia-Pacific -- Indo-Asia-Pacific, I should say, security architecture, so that everyone there can continue to rise and prosper.

And I'll now welcome Minister Parrikar's comments before we take questions.

Thank you.

MINISTER OF DEFENSE MANOHAR PARRIKAR:  Thank you.  And good morning.

I am delighted to be in the U.S.  This is my first visit to your great country as a defense minister.  I am deeply grateful to Secretary Carter for his warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation, and arranging an excellent program for my visit.

Before coming to Washington, I visited U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, and participated in Pearl Harbor Commemorative Ceremony.

Besides having interaction with the Pacific Command, I also had an opportunity to interact with Senator John McCain and some of the other members of the Senate Armed Service Committee.  I also had interaction with industry representatives at an event organized by the USIBC in which (inaudible) and FICCI also participated.

India and U.S. share a strategic partnership that reflects our shared values and interests.  Defense and security cooperation is a vital component of this partnership.  Our relations have grown stronger under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama.

This is my third meeting with Secretary Carter.  I had the privilege of hosting Secretary Carter in Delhi in June this year, when we signed the Defense Cooperation Framework Agreement.  This agreement reflects our shared commitment towards maintenance of international peace and security and promotion of rule-based order. We again met recently in Kuala Lumpur on the margins of -- ADMM-Plus. 

In our discussion today, Secretary Carter and I discussed a range of issues covering the entire spectrum of our defense partnership.  We also exchanged views on global and regional security issues.  We noted the good progress made under DTTI.  This is an initiative to reach good faith and has (inaudible) great importance.  We deeply appreciate the personal commitment of Secretary Carter in shaping up this initiative.

I have conveyed to Secretary Carter our desire to further collaborate in the higher-end tasks-- (inaudible) -- technologies within the framework of DTTI.  We also reviewed the cooperation between our armed forces which have grown stronger.  Today, India I'm pleased to say is conducting more military exercises with U.S. than any other country.

Our cooperation in the area of maritime security is also becoming stronger, especially in the Indian Ocean region, where India is playing its due role and responsibility of net security provider.  As you may be aware, during the visit of President Obama to India in January this year, our two countries agreed on joint strategic vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region.

The –issue of terrorism was a key topic discussion in all engagements Terrorism has become a global phenomenon and requires a comprehensive response.  Terrorists of all shades and affiliations must be countered without any differentiation.

I apprised Secretary Carter of the key policy vision taken by the government of India in the defense sector, including the increase in FDI limits to 49 percent, liberal offset policies, and improving the ease of doing business.  We feel that the recent policy initiatives have opened up immense opportunities for the U.S. companies to set up their manufacturing and produce in India, in collaboration with Indian companies.  This was our message to industry representatives yesterday.

I look forward to working together with Secretary Carter to further expand and deepen our defense relationship which the two great democracies need to ensure.

Thank you.

STAFF:  The first question will come from Bob Burns with the Associated Press.

Q:  Thank you.  I have a question for each.

Mr. Secretary, yesterday in your testimony on Capitol Hill, you mentioned that the U.S. is prepared to commit Apache helicopters, attack helicopters in Iraq under certain circumstances, you said if circumstances dictate and if the Iraqi government asked for it.

I'm wondering whether you were referring specifically and narrowly to the final stages of the battle for Ramadi, or do you see a broader need for expansion of U.S. combat power in Iraq going -- going ahead, the next year or so.

And may I ask, also, minister, is India considering increasing its role in countering the Islamic State?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, Bob, I was speaking yesterday specifically about Ramadi, but I think you should -- just bear in mind we have a general, nation-wide, that is all around Iraq effort to support the Iraqi Security forces, Kurdish security forces in the north.  And where ever we can identify them, Sunni forces in the western part of the country.

So, we are doing a lot.  And the -- it -- but specifically in connection with Ramadi, and the encirclement of Ramadi, the forces that have been doing that, just to remind you, were trained by us, equipped by us.

And if they would -- if it would benefit them and make a strategically decisive difference in the taking of Ramadi for us to add more, including attack helicopters, we're prepared to do that.

And more generally, as I indicated yesterday, when I was up on Capitol Hill, we are taking a number of measures, I described nine new ones, to increase the pressure on ISIL, with the aim -- speaking now of just Iraq and Syria -- of the defeat of what is the parent tumor of ISIL.

At the same time, we'll work around the world, and in -- sadly, as we learned from San Bernardino, here at home, also, the Department of Homeland Security, the law enforcement community.  And so -- so, this is a global and multi-spectral fight, but we have to defeat them in Iraq and Syria.

And the taking of Ramadi -- which I -- will occur, is an important step, and we'll assist it in whatever ways would hasten it and bring it about faster.

Q:  Do you think the Ramadi -- the fall of Ramadi is eminent?  Is it moving quickly in that direction?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, I expressed yesterday, it has been disappointingly slow, so I'm reluctant to make a time projection.

I am certain it will fall, and we will assist in the making of it fall, I mean, you know, a general answer to that kind of question is as soon as possible.

MIN. PARRIKAR:  India's policy on the Middle East has been the same, no changes in the policy.  While we share in inclusions, we believe that whatever role India is to play, under U.N. or any program, we'll do it.

So, there is no change in standards.  But we are sharing inclusions, we don't mind to go one step forward in sharing in the -- in sharing the information.

Q:  Second question -- (inaudible).  Welcome, Mr. Minister and welcome, Mr. Secretary.

In many of opening remarks, both of you spoke about the progress the two countries have led in the defense nations in the last 10 years.  In fact in trade -- (inaudible) -- to 10 billion now.

So, where do you see the leaderships agreeing for what, now?  What is your vision, and what is -- and what paints the leaderships that should move forward, on both of you?

MIN. PARRIKAR:  I think what we have achieved in the last 15 months.  And also since June 2014 -- 2015, is remarkable and probably a month against a year from here, I expect to progress at the speed of a year per month.  So in what we are –achieving in50 years, probably maybe able to –achieve in the current 10-year, next 30-40 years.

SEC. CARTER:  I just want to second that.  And the pace is picking up.  We've done so much more in the last year probably than we've done in the 10 years before that.  And I'm guessing in the -- that in the next 10 months, we will do yet again more than we've done in the last year.

These are not only larger projects, but they have a different character, as I indicated earlier.  And that's what DTTI is about.  It's about projects in which we work together, sharing technology and sharing production, which is good for our companies and good for our technology base, consistent with the Make in India policy of Prime Minister Modi.

And it -- it just -- it reinforces the very deep cultural relationship between the United States and India -- a people-to-people thing, a democracy-to-democracy, and innovative culture to innovative culture, sticking up for principles around the world.  And also enormous common interests.  We talked about maritime domain, security throughout Asia, South Asia, and so forth.

So for all these reasons, we are being carried in this direction inexorably.  Our job is to make this go faster and that's what we're doing.

STAFF:  Next question, Barbara -- (inaudible).

Q:  A question for both of you gentlemen, separate questions, if I may.

Mr. Secretary, can you talk a little bit about your proposals to develop counterterrorism hubs around the world to deal with ISIS affiliates?  You talked yesterday about your concerns in particular about Libya.  Do you think you can ever boot ISIS out of Raqqa?  Could you talk a little bit about that?

And Mr. Minister, because India is such an ally of the United States, and your country has so many decades of experience in diversity, many Americans would like to understand -- can you help us understand India's reaction to the proposal of Donald Trump regarding people of the Islamic faith?  I have to imagine that your government has a view about that.

SEC. CARTER:  I'll go first.

Important as it is to defeat ISIL in the parent tumor of Iraq and Syria, to include expelling them from Raqqa, absolutely that's necessary.  We also have to recognize that as Libya is one example that this tumor is metastasizing or has metastasized.  That's the reality -- recognition of that behind the concept of linking together American counterterrorism and military nodes in the region and around the world so that they operate more smoothly together, so that they can focus on this network wherever it is.

So this is -- these are capabilities that we have deployed now.  And, of course, we're focused on the defense ones.  And knitting them together into a network so that the -- it takes, as is frequently noted, a network to fight a network.  This is going to be our network for fighting ISIL on a regional and, indeed, a global basis.

So we are working on that.  That's a proposal that we've been working on now for a number of months.  I think it's a necessity.  And it should be and will prove to be very effective at what is a regional and global phenomenon, as we know.

MIN. PARRIKAR:  I think your question to me has the potential for nuclear bomb.

(Laughter.)

I'll not comment on what has been talked about in the U.S.  But as far as India is concerned, we believe that we are the second-largest Muslim population.  And we gel well.  We believe that everyone has equal opportunity, equal rights.  Yes, maybe there are a few small pockets of extremism, radicalization, but there are too few to treat the different sections of society differently.

In India, we have equal rights for everyone, and we don't look towards communities with suspicion.  Those who are radicalized is a different issue.  We tackle them separately, but that is -- those were terrorists.

Q:  And Mr. Secretary, we haven't heard from you yet, sir, about this, understanding as secretary of defense, you do not wish to discuss politics.  Nonetheless, it is a national conversation.  What is -- does this proposal wherever it came from make the war against ISIS easier, more difficult?  Does it add to national security?  Does it harm national security?

SEC. CARTER:  Barbara, I'm only going to say one thing about that.  I'm -- I've said this before.  This is a department that stands apart from politics.  It's national security, and I'm not going to comment while I'm secretary of defense on anything that is going on in the campaign trail.

We have said as a matter of -- of -- and the president has said this, that as a matter of -- in the fight against ISIL that this is not a fight with Muslims or Islam.  It's not, as they would like to have us say, a -- a Westernizing of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.  We -- this is an extremist, violent movement which threatens America and needs to be defeated.  And we're working on accelerating the -- the defeat of ISIL.  That's the important thing.

STAFF:  Last question.

Q:  (inaudible) -- and welcome to the U.S. from a fellow -- (inaudible).  And what is the significance you feel about this U.S.-India defense cooperation in the light of Make in India initiative of your government?  It's not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.  And also -- (inaudible).

MIN. PARRIKAR:  We are doing more than walk the walk.  DTTI is the initiative of Secretary Carter, which took up of course initially for the first three, four months not with (inaudible).  But I think the matters are clear.  The objectives are clear.  We are already concluded on two of the items.  There were six on the board.  Two more are in the final stages.  But many more are coming.

And I think this initiative with a timeline of six months, we will see so many of defense initiative technology transfers; U.S. companies setting up production facilities in India -- (inaudible); of course, setting up production facilities may take more longer time.

But –the decision on those is coming through.  And I'm thankful to Secretary Carter for his initiative in placing this above normal level of dealing.  So this announced position will definitely result into a great deal of things coming out in next six, seven months.

Q:  (inaudible) -- to Mr. Secretary.

There is so much talk about counterterrorism, and even in the latest case here, the person had come from Pakistan.  So it is that region also which is very important for this -- (inaudible).  How are you coordinating with India on those regional issues of counterterrorism?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, we have regular conversations with India about -- both about counterterrorism and about regional security issues.  And obviously, terrorism of all kinds in South Asia has been and remains a serious problem.

India has been attacked and is continuously threatened with attack from terrorists, even in -- we are even as Pakistan and Afghanistan are.  We have independent relationships with all three of those, and counterterrorism isn't the only thing we do with all three of those.  But counterterrorism is an important thing that we do with all of them.

And with respect to India, I'll just say that counterterrorism clearly is a key common interest.  We work a lot together on that.  And then we have a wide range of geopolitical, strategic and technology areas of cooperation as well.  So it's a very wide-ranging relationship.  In today's world, you can't leave out terrorism.

STAFF:  Thanks, everyone.

SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

Thanks to you all very much.