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

Aug. 29, 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER:  Hello, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Thanks everyone for joining us.

 

      I want to thank my friend and colleague, Minister Parrikar, for joining us here at the Pentagon and visiting us today.  Earlier this afternoon, he and I visited the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial.  Fifteen years ago this week, our DOD community lost so many friends and colleagues and our nation lost too many fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

 

      Unfortunately, I know also that the Indian Air Force recently experienced a tragedy of its own.  One of its aircraft disappeared last month with nearly 30 people on board.  On behalf of the men and women of the Defense Department, I offer our thoughts and our prayers for those missing and their families.

 

      And I thank, Mr. Minister, you for taking the time to come out to our memorial, even as Prime Minister Modi, when he was here in Washington not long ago, came to Arlington National Cemetery.  It means a great deal to us and is reflective of the shared values which underlie our important relationship.

 

      Now, even before today's very productive discussion, which was our sixth meeting since I became secretary of defense, I had already spent more time with Mister Parrikar than I had with any other defense counterpart anywhere in the world, and there are two reasons for that.

 

      One is Minister Parrikar himself.  He's a strong and effective leader.  He's an innovator.  He's a great partner and a true friend.  He already had a very busy trip to the United States, meeting with our teams from the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, Cyber Command, DARPA, the Air Force and others.

 

      And the second reason that Minister Parrikar and I spent so much time together is that -- and I said this in Delhi this past April -- the U.S.-India relationship is destined to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.  We share so much, so many interests and values, as well as a common vision for peace, for stability and prosperity in the India -- Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

 

      And as Minister Parrikar's busy itinerary and our extensive deliberations today demonstrate, that destiny is rapidly and surely becoming a reality.  Earlier this summer, when President Obama and Prime Minister Modi met here in Washington, India was designated a major defense partner of the United States, and today, we moved that partnership forward.

 

      This designation builds on the success of last year's framework for the U.S.-India defense relationship.  It will facilitate defense, trade and technology sharing with India on a level we reserve only for our closest friends and allies, and it will support both of what I have called the two important handshakes between our countries and our two militaries.

 

      The first is the strategic handshake.  As the United States is reaching West in President Obama's rebalance, India is reaching East in Prime Minister Modi's Act East Policy, which will extend India's reach further into the broader Indo-Asia-Pacific region.  India's already making so many important contributions as a security provider in that region, especially in the maritime domain.  And the major defense partner designation in our recent agreements will allow us to work together even more closely.

 

      We see that deeper cooperation in many areas including, for example, the bilateral logistics exchange memorandum of agreement that our governments formally signed earlier today, which will help facilitate the deeper engagement between our two militaries.  We see it in the exercises of greater complexity and greater and greater complexity that we're holding together, including June's successful exercise Malabar -- with Japan, I should note -- August's RIMPAC exercise with many other countries and in the army exercise Yudh Abhyas scheduled next month in India.

 

      We see it in the arrangement we recently concluded to exchange data on commercial shipping traffic.  And we see our deepening military partnership in our increased work on maritime security overall.  In fact, our inaugural maritime security dialogue in May was such a success, we agreed to convene another before the end of this year.

 

      The major defense partner designation will also tighten the second handshake between our two countries, the technological one.

 

      Four years ago, the United States and India created the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, DTTI, to leverage the convergence between our industrial and technological abilities in an unprecedented way.  That initiative grasps hands with Prime Minister Modi's Make in India campaign.

 

      And we made important progress on that technological partnership today, also.  We agreed to advance a number of collaborative projects, on jet technology, jet engine technology -- on jet technology and jet engine technology, chemical and biological protection, aircraft carriers and other systems; all by the end of the year.  That collaboration will surely bring further cooperation, co-development and co-production.

 

      These two handshakes have brought our two militaries together -- closer together, and will continue to do so.  And we're working together and networking with other Asia-Pacific militaries to provide the security and to promote the principles, including freedom of navigation and overflight, that have benefited so many in the region, including India.

 

      Going forward, and thanks to our meetings this week, the United States and India will work together in more and new ways to ensure the Asia-Pacific continues to be a region where everyone can rise and prosper.

 

      Before I turn it over to Mr. Parrikar, I have to say that I've been working on the U.S.-India defense relationship for several years now -- actually I should say for many years, in fact -- and it's been important focus of both of my time as defense secretary and before that.  I've never been more optimistic about this relationship and I've never been more committed to its progress either.

 

      Mr. Parrikar and I are going to continue to work together to ensure that our two countries and our two militaries grow closer still.

 

      Thank you.  And after Mr. Parrikar says a few words, we'll take your questions.

 

      Mr. Minister.

 

      INDIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE MANOHAR PARRIKAR:  Thank you, Dr. Carter.

 

      I was deeply moved by my visit to two Pentagon memorials.  We in India feel your anguish and pain at being the target of terrorism.

 

      I thank Secretary Carter for joining me in my visit to the memorial.

 

      I'm also pleased to be at Pentagon again, to meet Secretary Carter.  I thank him for the warmth of his welcome.  We held excellent discussions and both of us are satisfied at progress we are making in our defense ties.

 

      As was noted, this is our sixth meeting in about a year.  This reflects our shared intent to take the India-U.S. defense partnership forward.  Indeed, defense cooperation between India and the United States has never been stronger than it is today.

 

      For this I wish to thank Dr. Carter.  It is his vision, his deep personal commitment and untiring work that has helped elevate our partnership to this level.

 

      I fully share his ambition and resolve to make the India-U.S. partnership one of the defining partnerships of the 21st Century.

 

      We appreciate the decision of the U.S. government to designate India as a major defense partner.  In our discussions today, we looked at how this could provide further energy and momentum to our partnership on defense technology and manufacturing.  We agreed to continue efforts to establish a fast an efficient framework to encourage tie-ups between our defense companies.

 

      The United States is only -- is today one of India's primary source of defense equipment.  The U.S. has shared some of its cutting-edge platforms with India.  We would like to take this forward to greater collaborative projects, spending even higher level of technologies and through corporation in manufacturing ventures.

 

      The DTTI, of which Secretary Carter is both founder and architect, met last month in Delhi.  We decided to significantly expand the scope of its activities and the community of exchange in DTTI.  I am confident that we will be able to develop more capable methods of engagement, covering newer areas even as we take forward ongoing collaborations in DTTI.

 

      The partnership between our armed forces has grown from strength to strength.  The Indian Armed Forces deeply appreciate the strong capabilities of U.S. military and values their engagement with the U.S. fleet.  Today, India has more cooperative activities with the U.S. military than any other country.

 

      Over the past few months, our air forces have jointly exercise in – Red Flag

 

      (Crosstalk)

 

      (Laughter.)

 

      MIN. PARRIKAR:  As our navies is in RIMPAC and Malabar.

 

      The army exercise Yudh Abhyas is to be held shortly.  Our decision to sign the -- (inaudible) -- today has made it easier for our armed forces to carry out joint activities such as training and exercise, as well as, JDR missions.

 

      Our engagement on maritime security is developing well.  India and the United States have a shared interest in freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce as part of rule-based order in Indo-Pacific.  Our officials met in May 2016 for the inaugural Maritime Security Dialogue.  We have tasked them to meet more regularly as we implement the joint strategic vision.

 

      The signing of the white shipping agreement and the information exchange arrangement on aircraft carriers recently underlines our desire to work closely together in the maritime domain.  Today, we decided to further enhance our engagement on maritime domain.  We also resolved to continue our cooperation on counter-terrorism.

 

      India and United States are fellow democracies.  Our open and diverse societies are committed to peace.  However, as the United States has shown, there can be no compromise when we are faced with terrorism.  The forces that seek to undermine our progress and our ways of life require our comprehensive and robust response.  We appreciate the support from United States in our efforts to eliminate terrorism in India's neighborhood.

 

      Secretary Carter and I agreed that countering terrorism is an important shared objective.  The partnership between India and the United States is driven by our shared values and interests.  This was underlined by the want and the enthusiasm between the U.S. Congress with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year.

 

      Even as we meet in Washington today, the U.S. secretary of state and the U.S. commerce secretary are in Delhi jointly meeting with their Indian counterparts to take forward our strategic and commercial partnership.

 

      India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  Recently, we have further liberalized our policies on foreign investment, including in the defense sector, where up to 100 percent of -- (inaudible) -- is now permitted.  We've also given a major reforms push to the tech system with progress on GSD.  Combined with many flagship initiatives of prime ministers, including on ease of doing business, this makes India one of the most effective global business destinations.

 

      I wish to invite U.S. industry with U.S. support, including the defense industry, to be part of this new journey of hope and transformation in India.  I'm delighted to have had another opportunity to work together with Secretary Carter in taking our bilateral defense partnership to even greater heights.  I look forward to continuing my discussions with him in coming days to advance our shared objectives of peace, prosperity and progress.

 

      Thank you.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Thank you.

 

      MR. PETER COOK: Secretary and the minister have time for three questions.  We'll begin with Bob Burns.

 

      Q:  Good afternoon.

 

      Mr. Secretary, a question for you about Syria.  The recent developments with Turkey intervening in northern Syria -- your press secretary put out a statement this morning saying that these clashes that Turk forces are involved in with the Syrian Kurds, who are of course supported by the United States, has become an unacceptable development and is deeply concerning to you.  Have you spoken directly to your Turkish counterparts about these latest developments?

 

      And also, could you say whether by intervening in this way against the Kurds -- the Syrian Kurds -- that the Turks actually -- are they actually hindering the fight against the Islamic State and turning this into a quagmire?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Good.  Well, thanks Bob.

 

      First, we very much appreciate the efforts of both partners, Turkey and the Syrian Defense Forces[sic - Syrian Democratic Forces], in the fight against ISIL.  They both made material contributions.  We've worked with both of them.  And all of our interactions are intended to keep that going.  So yes, we have called upon Turkey to not -- to stick -- stay focused on the fight against ISIL and not to engage Syrian Defense Forces [sic].

 

      And we've had a number of contacts over the last several days, including very importantly, the chairman spoke to his counterpart just yesterday.  And I'll actually be meeting with my counterpart face-to-face next week in Europe.

 

      And there have been other contacts as well at all levels, emphasizing, first of all -- take Turkey -- to Turkey, that the United States was very supportive and is very supportive of their general counter-ISIL activities and everything they did to secure the area between the border and Jarablus, and then westward, but not south of Jarablus, nor to engage the Syrian Defense Forces[sic].

 

      And as far as the YPG portion of the Syrian Defense Forces[sic] is concerned, to maintain their understanding which they have with us and to continue to implement that understanding, to withdraw their forces east of the Euphrates.  And that would be -- they are doing that, yes, but that's the understanding we have with them and we want to make sure that they continue that.

 

      So we've called on both sides to not fight with one another, to continue to focus the fight on ISIL.  That's the basis of our cooperation with both of them.  And specifically, not to engage one another and to -- to retain those geographic commitments that they've made.

 

      So that's the basis of our understandings with both of them and the basis of all of our contacts and conversations with them, Bob.

 

      MR. COOK:  Next question from India.

 

      Q:  Thank you.

 

      Mr. Secretary, as you've said in your opening remarks, this -- (inaudible) -- U.S. designated India as a major defensive partner.  What does this mean in terms of -- for technology transfer?  Is there any technology which you don't want to share with India right now?  And what about India's fight against terrorism in its neighborhood?

 

      And if I may draw your attention to South China Sea, the tension up there in the region, what role -- or how U.S. and India can work together to ensure that the peace is maintained and the global rules are followed in that part of the world?

 

      And Mr. Minister, the MO was signed today.  What does this mean for India?  How do you respond to critics who say that this will open up business for U.S. in Indian territory?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Okay.  Thank you.

 

      Well, first of all with respect to the major defense partnership agreement, that is a -- that is a very substantial change.  It's an enormous change from 50 years of history.  And a very substantial advance over just a few months ago.

 

      And here's the gist of it.  It will allow the United States and India to cooperate, which speaking from the U.S. point of view, in a way that we do only with our closest and most long-standing allies.  That's a very big change.

 

      Now, what the specifics of that -- one of the things I was able to tell Mr. Parrikar today is that the Indian government sent us before our meeting today a very lengthy, detailed and we thought very constructive paper about how to implement the -- the major defense partnership understanding.

 

      One of the things I was able to tell him today is that we read that -- I've read that, studied it very carefully you know -- I told him that, that's an excellent basis for the implementation of the major defense partnership.

 

      What does that mean specifically in terms of right across the board of what we do, whether they are co-production, co-development projects, whether they are exercises and the kinds of things that we do operationally together?  In all of those respects, the -- some of the barriers that were erected in the past -- where we so to speak, didn't interact very much -- all those being knocked down.

 

      That gets to the second part which is terrorism, which is one of the many missions on which we cooperate.  And just to second what Minister Parrikar has said -- I mean, the United States is quite clear in this regard and everywhere around the world, which is we oppose terrorism affecting anyone and us. That's certainly true with respect to terrorist acts perpetrated against the Indian people, and also I should mention the Indian military, which has happened as well.  And this gives new scope for that, as well.

 

      Also, maritime domain awareness, which gets to your next point, which is about South China Sea but it's not just South China Sea.  I think you mentioned the Sea.  But anywhere where we and India share the principled view that in matters of freedom of the seas and freedom of the commons and freedom of navigation, as in so many other matters, states need to take a principled view where abiding by the rule of law and pursuing disputes peacefully is fundamental.

 

      And we're able to operate together.  The white shipping agreement was -- given, that's just one of the many examples of information sharing in the naval area.

 

      And then last, if I may say something -- since you asked about LEMOA, I'll say something about that as well.  That's a very substantial enabler of our two countries to work together.  Now, of course -- and I want to make clear that what it does is make possible and make easier operating together when we choose to.  It doesn't by itself -- those agreements -- those are the things that the two governments would have to agree on a case by case basis.  But when they do agree, this is an agreement that makes it all go so much more smoothly and efficiently.

 

      It is fully mutual.  In other words, we grant one another completely equal access and ease under this agreement.  It's not a basing agreement of any kind, but it does make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient.

 

      So, I know you asked the minister that question, but I just thought I'd offer my views on that as well before he does.

 

      MIN. PARRIKAR:  I think Secretary Carter made it clear about the base part of it.  It doesn't have anything to do with the setting up of base.  It's basically logistics support to each others fleet, like supply of fuel, supply of many other things which are required for joint operations, humanitarian assistance and many other relief operations.

 

      So, it basically will ensure that both navies can be -- can be supportive of each other in the joint venture operations we do, exercises we do.  And there is no provision for any base or any sort of activities to set up a base in India.

 

   MR. COOK: Final question will go to Phil.

 

      Q:  Thank you.

 

      Mr. Secretary, getting back to Syria, do you believe that Turkey shares your view of what the SDF is?  That -- you're saying the YPG's moving back across the Euphrates and that SDF elements, presumably, otherwise they are going -- would remain in places like Manbij.  Does Turkey share the view that that is acceptable, that the SDF as a construct itself can stay as long as the YPG is across the river?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Well, one of the things we're talking about is that -- with them -- is clarifying where different elements of the SDF are.

 

      And just to remind you, there are elements of the SDF that are Kurdish and are YPG-associated.  We work with them in our common interest to defeat ISIL and to move from Manbij and then on to Raqqah and to destroy ISIL in Syria.

 

      We also understand that the YPG part of the SDF is one that is -- that Turkey has serious historical objections to and practical current objections to that we also fully understand.  So -- so while we have that understanding with Turkey, they also understand that we intend to and are working with the SDF to combat ISIL.

 

      What we can do and are doing with them is to clarify where the YPG elements of the SDF are and are not.

 

      And just to repeat what I said a little while ago, our understanding with the SDF as a whole, including the YPG elements of it, is that the YPG after the Manbij operation will and is -- will withdraw and is withdrawing east of the Euphrates.  That will naturally separate them from Turkish forces that are heading down in the Jarablus area.

 

      And provided Turkish forces stay where they are, which is securing -- which is another thing we fully support -- they're securing their own border north of the Jarablus area -- they shouldn't come into conflict with one another.

 

      But we do understand that they have historical differences with one another, but American interests are quite clear.  We are -- we, like they, want to combat ISIL and we want -- we're calling on them all now.  Let's keep our priorities clear here in helping them to deconflict, so to speak, on the battlefield.

 

      Q:  (inaudible) -- but also just to -- to clarify, you're not re-tooling your strategy, you're not changing your strategy – when looking toward Raqqah as a result of any of this?

 

      SEC. CARTER:  No, our strategy's been very successful.  The SDF proved very effective in Manbij.  And Turkey is an extremely effective not only counter-ISIL partner, but NATO ally.

 

      Q:  And Mr. Minister, could you just give us a -- there are two other foundational agreements that India is due to sign with the United States on defense.  Where do those stand?

 

      And also, sorry -- and then also on Kashmir -- (inaudible) -- Kashmir?  And what's being done to kind of lower tensions there?  There have been protests for -- violent protests -- over the last 40 days or so.  Thank you.

 

      MIN. PARRIKAR:  The first thing regarding the other two agreements, I think after 12, 13 years, we have managed to get logistic agreement in place.  You could see the -- (inaudible) -- logistic agreement was being mixed up with setting of -- (inaudible).  So let me get this logistic agreement in the public domain properly and explain to the people.  Then we will eventually go into the other aspects.

 

      As far as Kashmir is concerned, I think the government of India has been very proactive with -- (inaudible) -- violence which comes from across the border.  And curfew -- if you are aware, curfew is already being lifted -- (inaudible).

 

      Total force -- our party team is also going -- we are not -- Kashmir is actually having a government which is a democratically elected.  And the chief minister belongs to the -- (inaudible).  So I think you must've seen the press conference expressing that few small percentage is holding the majority -- (inaudible).

 

      Q:  Thank you, Mr. Minister.

 

      Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

 

      SEC. CARTER:  Thank you all.  Good to see everyone.

 

      And thank you, Mr. Minister, as always.

 

      MIN. PARRIKAR:  Thank you.

 

      Q:  Thank you.

 

-END-