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Media Roundtable with Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter in Delhi, India

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter
September 18, 2013

 DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON CARTER: Hi there. It’s good to be with you. Thanks for coming.

I have a brief opening that will set the stage for your questions, then we’ll take some questions.

First of all I am so pleased to be back here again in India. I came here traveling first to Afghanistan and Pakistan and now staying here several days in India. The reason why I came is as a reflection of the fact that the United States and India are two countries that are destined to be security partners on the world stage. That is because we share common interests, but also more fundamentally, many common values and outlooks on issues ranging from defense trade to counter-terrorism to maritime security and beyond.

With Prime Minister Singh poised to visit our country in just over a week, it’s a very exciting time to be here.

President Obama has called the U.S.-India relationship the defining partnership of the 21st Century and our commitment to taking the already strong defense cooperation part of that relationship to the next level will not waiver.

Secretary of Defense Hagel, who himself has a deep understanding of this region and relationship and I both understand that we and India have a multi-faceted defense relationship consisting of exercises, discussions of regional security, trilateral consultations with Japan and other multilateral organizations and engagements, and significant and growing defense trade. The deepening relationship also reflects the U.S. rebalance to and within the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

In the trade area we’re building on the rapid transformation of the defense relationship over the past decade and today the United States is a significant provider of some of the best U.S. equipment and technology to India’s military modernization efforts.

We want India to have all of the capabilities it needs to meet its security needs and we want to be a key partner in that effort.

When we look at pictures of the Indian Air Force’s C-130s participating in the recent floor relief efforts in the north, pictures that were everywhere in the press here in India and around the world, that tells us we’re on the right track together.

Just this morning I received an excellent brief from the Indian Air Force at Hindon Air Force Station on the role of C-130s and C-17s in India’s strategic lift planning. I was in fact privileged to meet with the Indian Air Force pilot who landed that C-130J above 16,000 feet in the Himalayas. Pretty impressive stuff.

A year ago our two governments announced during a visit of then Secretary of Defense Panetta to Delhi after he met with National Security Advisor Menon that we would work on an effort called the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, DTI, in coordination with our Indian counterparts to streamline our bureaucratic processes and make our defense trade more simple, responsive and effective. In particular, to move from a vendor/buyer relationship to one of partnership in co-developing and co-producing defense systems.

Secretary Hagel and I are fully committed to this effort and I think we’ve made significant progress over the last year, but there’s much more to do.

I had the opportunity yesterday to discuss this progress with National Security Advisor Menon, Foreign Minister Singh, Defence Minister Mathur and others in the Indian government yesterday.

For example, we’ve worked very hard to clarify a lot of old misperceptions about U.S. willingness to share high level technology with India and to communicate the changes that the United States has made in this area, and other matters related to export controls.

Second, we made a clear mandate for both sides to find creative solutions to hurdles in our defense relationship. For example, we found a way to provide greater assurance on the likely extent of technology transfer prior to a formal license request, something which greatly facilitates and hastens the initiation of co-production and co-development projects.

We on the U.S. side are going to incentivize with priority funding U.S. researchers who seek out and find Indian partners in key areas of science and technology collaboration. That’s something we’ve only ever done before with the United Kingdom and Australia. Now India joins that company.

Third, we’ve also insisted on the need to lean forward and expedite these projects. One new approach is to seek anticipatory approvals of certain projects before Indian requirements are complete. We look forward to continued discussion on these and future opportunities.

We’ve also made a big effort to engage our private sector and the Indian private sector. I last visited India a year ago and had the opportunity to visit the Lockheed Tata plant in Hyderabad which assembles parts of the C-130J and which is entirely a partnership of two companies -- one American and one Indian. Encouraged and applauded by the governments, but it was not founded by the governments.

It’s a great example of what industry can accomplish together, and I’m convinced of the enormous untapped potential between our private sectors in the defense field.

We on our side have already reached out to U.S. industry to start identifying more transformative co-production and co-development projects that we can undertake together. So we’re going to keep reaching out and keep pushing.

We’re in this for the long term but we’re acting in the short term. Secretary Hagel and I and the entire U.S. defense team are committed to this partnership.

With that, I’ll take your questions.

Q: Can you elaborate on the third country which India is [inaudible] apart from UK and Australia, science and technology?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Yes. This is our commitment to provide to U.S. defense researchers who find Indian partners to work on research projects with, with priority in receiving funding on the U.S. side from us. That will incentivize them to find those Indian partners, and we’ll have more U.S.-Indian defense cooperation. That’s something that we only do with the United Kingdom and Australia.

Q: Any particular project you talked about in the meeting? Did you talk about Javelin ATGM?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Yes, Javelin is one. And Javelin, of course, has a long history here, and not a happy history. In part, that is because it in the past didn’t reflect our desire, and especially the desire on the Indian side, to have co-development and co-production projects. So the U.S. company involved has offered with our encouragement India for its consideration a new approach to Javelin which involves not only co-production but co-development of the next generation of Javelin. So rather than simply buying this generation of Javelin, India would be able to do that but also co-develop and co-produce the next generation of Javelin for international buyers. So that’s an entirely new proposal intended to reflect the DTI, and it’s being offered to no other country but India.

Q: What was the Indian response?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Well, India needs to take time to consider that. It’s an offer. It’s in the spirit of the DTI. And we intend to do that, to develop many ideas, make many proposals. It will be India’s choice whether they decide to do that or not. But it’s in the spirit that India understandably seeks, which is one of where they’re not just buying something but they’re making something and in fact doing the research and development on something.

Q: Is this proposal, India has only one functional joint venture company in the defense sector. One functional, and that is Brahmos with Russia. Is the proposal for the Javelin ATGM on the same lines?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Yes. That’s a very good analogy. It exactly is intended to be exactly the same kind of thing where the two industry teams are involved in the whole product life cycle. So that a product is both co-developed and co-produced. And of course that’s the new wave for U.S. and India.

We don’t have the history that Russia does here and we’re trying to replicate that, or overcome the fact that our defense technology and industrial system and the Indian defence and technology industrial system were segregated for many decades. Now destiny is bringing us together and we need to work to make those two systems mesh. That’s not automatic. They’re different. They have different histories, different bureaucracies and so forth, so it takes the leaders of our two defense industrial systems to help our companies do that.

Q: You talked about the Indian-U.S. defense partnership reflecting some rebalancing in the Asia Pacific.


Q: In that context how do you view China’s growing belligerence in dealing with countries that have disputes, land disputes or maritime disputes such as India, countries in the South China Sea region?

Also what do you think of the Chinese, the great stockpile of strategic missiles which the Chinese have and Indians also claiming that we have the capability to build ICBMs?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: First of all, with respect to the U.S. rebalance and China, the rebalance is not aimed at China. There is no Cold War or competition with China that is in the interest of both countries. The leadership of China and the leadership of the United States have made it quite clear we don’t want that. And in fact that’s the whole principal behind the rebalance.

The rebalance to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean by the United States is a restoration of the historic role the United States has played in that region. And the rebalance is rebalancing from the preoccupation we have had over the last ten years with two wars in India and Afghanistan. We know that the Asia Pacific Indian Ocean region is the part of the world where much of humanity’s future will be written.

The United States has played for seven decades a pivotal military role in the Asia Pacific region, a region where there are old animosities like the ones you mentioned in the South China Sea, and where the United States has contributed to an atmosphere of peace and stability which, going back decades now, allowed Japan first to emerge and develop economically; then Korea; then many countries of Southeast Asia; and now India and China. We think that’s a good thing. The rebalance is intended to keep going that environment of peace and stability which allowed what people really want which is political and economic development. Not military competition or conflict.

That gets to the second question you had about the South China Sea disputes. You probably know, the United States as a matter of principle doesn’t take a position on territorial disputes of that kind, but we do take a position on how they’re resolved. We believe they should be resolved peacefully, without coercion, without being militarized, but resolved politically and we take that position with respect to every single one of those and take that position strongly and as a matter of principle.

Last, you get to the question of strategic missiles in both China and India, and I would only say obviously both countries have the technological capability to field such missiles, but I’d come back to the point I was making earlier which is the United States doesn’t believe that the Asia Pacific region is one that should be the scene of competition or arms racing, let alone conflict. It’s not in the interest of any of us to get into that. Our people want economic and political development. They don’t want conflict. And the region has been largely free of that conflict for decades, and that’s why the Asia Pacific is such a wonder to behold in terms of economic developments, because it’s had peace. We want to keep that going.

Q: You have recently visited Afghanistan. The situation is [inaudible]. We don’t know about exactly withdrawal of U.S. troops. What is the latest situation about that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Both good questions. My assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan is this. The transition from coalition or International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, lead to Afghan lead on the battlefield is successful. The Afghan forces are in the lead and they’re succeeding. They’re able to provide security. They’re taking heavy losses but that’s because they are bearing the brunt of the fighting this year. For the first time. Americans are not conducting independent operations. Everything is with Afghans and with Afghans leading those operations. So this fighting season the Afghans have been in the lead and they’ve been successful.

You used the phrase, something like the United States leaving Afghanistan. That is not the policy that was laid out in Chicago and Tokyo. The policy that was laid out in Chicago and Tokyo was that the international community, including the United States, would gradually transition and that there would be a presence, we call it the enduring presence in Afghanistan, for many years where we continue to support Afghanistan, especially we in the Department of Defense to support the Afghan forces.

To make that possible, we need in the next few weeks a Bilateral Security Agreement to be signed between the government of Afghanistan and the government of the United States. That will make it possible for us to plan that enduring presence in 2015, 2016, 2017, and so on.

Q: The U.S. has agreed to transfer many of the high tech defense to India without India agreeing to sign some of the agreements like CISMOA. So are you ignoring those foundational agreements? Or --

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: We can’t ignore them because they’re part of our law, but we’re working around them so they don’t become obstacles.

Obviously we’d like to have those agreements concluded but we decided that we needed to get on with the work. So we are trying to and succeeding in doing practical things together even though the government of India has not chosen to sign those agreements yet.

Q: Sir, how do you respond to the perception that despite the cooperation of DTI initiative, there has been a reluctance on the Indian side to accept joint developmental co-production. Even you see reluctance not only with the Americans, but others. The French have been trying for years to have a joint missile production. It’s still not happened.

How do you think the U.S. approach will be different, or why do you think co-development will be possible between our two nations?

Secondly, what kind of technology has India said it was interested in on developing cutting edge technologies? Are you talking about next generation, things that next generation catapult systems for aircraft carriers or -- Can you illustrate a few points where we can collaborate?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: First of all, to the first point, on both sides you see that the newness of what we’re trying to do is challenging the bureaucracies on both sides. I wouldn’t say it the way you said, which is Indian reluctance. I would say it’s Indian and American difficulty in our bureaucracies.

It’s new, and that’s why high level leadership like that which is being provided on the Indian side and that I’m trying to supply on the U.S. side is so important. Because there are lots of minor bureaucratic obstacles that have to be cleared out of the way, and people have to be creative about how to try to do something that hasn’t been done before. But it has to be done because it’s obvious that history is requiring us to do this.

The U.S.-Indian partnership is important in a geopolitical sense and we in the defense area need to make that possible.

It’s also a fact of modern life that the technology base is globalizing and no single country has all the best technologies. So we can benefit from one another and we’re stronger by cooperating.

Those two fundamental facts mean that this is inevitable. This is not a question of whether the DTI will happen. It’s only a question of how fast.

With respect to specific examples, I could give you many, and we’re discussing many of them. You mentioned EMALS which is, for those of you who don’t know, the catapult system for aircraft carriers that is electromagnetic rather than steam propelled, and the United States is developing and fielding that system and offering the technology to India which has an aircraft carrier and wants to consider and make it more, wants to consider that kind of catapult, and that’s a perfect example. But it ranges across the whole missions base, from traditional articles like transport aircraft which is a co-production, not yet a co-development, to tactical battlefield systems like Javelin, to counter-terrorism, to maritime security. We’re both maritime countries, maritime security is very important. So to new areas that are not traditional battlefield system. The whole spectrum. We’re discussing projects, research, development and production across the whole spectrum. There are no boundaries on it from the U.S. point of view, and as far as I know from the Indian point of view.

Q: You met with the top leadership from Foreign Affairs Ministry and Defence Ministry. Have the two sides finalized the defense deals to be signed during Prime Minister Singh’s visit to U.S.?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: We’ll let the President and the Prime Minister decide that. I’ll just say, basically there are lots and lots of projects that are moving along. They do move along according to their own industrial and technological schedules, though, so we’ll see.

I think that both leaders know that all of these projects are in the hopper there, but our effort here was across the board including things that will be one month, one year, 10 years, 20 years down the road. So we’re looking for the long term as well as acting in the short term.

Q: What is the perception of Pakistan in India as concerns on front of terrorism and the new regime of Nawaz Sharif taking over in Pakistan. Although he has sounded very positive in carrying on cooperation on counter-terrorism. Pakistan doesn’t seem to be delivering. It has been [inaudible]. In your talks with Indian leaders here, has this also --

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: Sure. We talked about Pakistan, we talked about Afghanistan, we talked about many other topics.

You’re right, there’s a new government in Islamabad and I met with that new government and I think that one thing I learned was the paramount importance that the government attaches to what we in the United States believe is also a very high priority for Pakistan, namely economic development. If you think about it fundamentally Pakistan’s future economically depends upon peaceful relations with India. It depends upon having in Afghanistan a stable, secure environment because that’s the route to trade with Central Asia.

So that is the fundamental realization that I believe is right for Pakistan. And in the security field, the principal threat to Pakistan is terrorism, not its neighbors. So the focus on the economy and the focus on counter-terrorism are the things that we discussed there.

Q: Mr. Carter as the coalition forces in Afghanistan reduce their presence there, you’re taking out a lot of material through Pakistan. I think that’s been identified as GLOC. What are you doing with some of the excess material? Excess equipment? That’s one.

The second is, is the friction on the line of control in [inaudible] between India and Pakistan this year a matter of concern as you are withdrawing troops?

DEPUTY SECRETARY CARTER: We are using the routes from Shaman and Torkam to Karachi to take out equipment as we gradually reduce our presence in Afghanistan. We don’t need them, we don’t have to have them. We can fly out things, we can take out things on the northern route. It’s cheaper and it has benefits to Pakistan. For that reason we and Pakistan have agreed that we will continue to use those routes. That’s a good thing I think for both countries.

You’re right, not all of the equipment we have in Afghanistan is going to remain a part of the armed forces of the United States. So some of that will be declared excess and is available for other countries to receive, other countries around the world. We have policies to designate that equipment and other countries to receive it. And a number of them have indicated that they’d like to do that and that’ absolutely fine.

With respect to matters along the line of control, obviously that’s a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan, but we certainly take an interest in it because we take an interest in good relations between India and Pakistan and peaceful relationships between India and Pakistan.

It doesn’t have any direct connection to issues on the GLOCs. U.S.-Pakistan relations in general does have a connection to the GLOCs. Our relations with Pakistan have improved greatly over the last year. That’s good. And we think it’s important to have good relations with Pakistan because of what I said earlier, it’s important because in Afghanistan the role of Pakistan in the internal security of Afghanistan is an important one. It’s important that Pakistan play a supporting role in creating a stable Afghanistan. As I said earlier, I think that’s in Pakistan’s long term interest.

And likewise, we want peaceful relations between India and Pakistan. We think that’s in Pakistan’s long term interest also for the reason I said earlier which is that Pakistan needs that economically and fundamentally. It needs economic development so it can enjoy some of the prosperity that the other countries from India all the way down to Southeast Asia, to Northeast Asia are enjoying.

Thank you.

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