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U.S.-India Relationship Critical to Free, Open Indo-Pacific

A shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific bolsters the U.S.-India relationship as the two countries continue to strengthen defense ties, a senior Pentagon official said today.

Siddharth Iyer, the Office of the Secretary of Defense director for South Asia policy, said the defense partnership has experienced an "incredible and unprecedented amount of momentum" as evidenced by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III twice traveling to India during his tenure and the "warmth and familiarity" between the two countries.

A man in civilian attire walks as members of a foreign military stand at attention.
Welcome Walk
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is welcomed to the Indian Ministry of Defense in New Delhi by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, June 5, 2023.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230605-D-TT977-0037M
Two men in civilian attire are seated next to a table displaying American and Indian flags.
Defense Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III meets with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, June 5, 2023.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230605-D-TT977-0233M
Iyer added that the U.S. and India have reached a "transformative stage in the relationship" as the Biden administration builds upon its progress in the region.   

"This relationship is one of the top priorities for the department," Iyer said. "Our belief is that getting the U.S. and India relationship right is not just necessary, it's essential to achieving our strategy in the Indo-Pacific." 

"There's a broad and deep commitment to making that happen," he said.  

During Austin's most recent visit to India in June, Rajnath Singh, defense minister of India, finalized details on a roadmap to fast-track defense technology cooperation and co-production.  

"I think one of the ways in which we think about the roadmap is really a manifestation of Secretary Austin's commitment to accelerating India's military modernization, and for him, putting the department on the hook to find targeted opportunities to propose to advance India's indigenous defense production capabilities," Iyer said during a discussion on furthering U.S.-India security cooperation hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington. The Hudson Institute is a public policy think tank focused on defense, international relations, economics, energy, technology, culture, and law.

Iyer said the agreement has already provided the foundation for measurable progress in talks between the two countries in key areas surrounding defense production and supply chains. 

U.S. and Indian officials have also welcomed the establishment of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem designed to complement government ties by promoting partnerships between U.S. and Indian companies, start-up accelerators and research institutions.  

The initiative will focus on accelerating and scaling commercial technologies that have military applications, easing access to capital and removing barriers. 

Defense officials have identified India as a critical strategic partner for the coming decades and one that has demonstrated growing willingness to advance a shared vision of free, open and rules-based global order.

A group of troops pose with members of a foreign military as they hoist American and Indian flags while standing on armored vehicles.
Bright Star
U.S. Marines from the 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marines, celebrate the end of a live fire exercise with Indian Army soldiers during exercise Bright Star 2023 in Egypt, Sept. 10, 2023.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Joaquin Vasquez-Duran
VIRIN: 230910-A-SV080-1071

"President Biden has described the U.S.-India relationship as being one of the most consequential for the 21st century," Iyer said.

"The […] major advances that many of us have observed in the U.S.-India relationship are part of a bigger story about what the United States and the Biden-Harris administration has been doing across the Indo-Pacific to advance our strategic objectives, and to come closer to realizing and reinforcing that vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific," he said.

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