Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today called for the United States and India to do more to transform their defense relationship through increased partnerships in production and technology, given the edge he said both nations have in science and innovation.
Speaking in New Delhi to business leaders and scholars on the final day of his first visit to India as defense chief, Hagel told the Observer Research Foundation that the future of both nations rests on a stronger strategic partnership and global engagement, and he said he came away from meetings with Indian leaders reassured about that.
“The fundamentals of the U.S.-India partnership are strong,” Hagel said. The question is whether India and the United States can achieve the enormous potential for this partnership -- whether we can transform our potential into results. Following my conversations yesterday, I’m more confident than ever that we can.”
Hagel said the United States welcomes new proposals from India on defense issues in areas where both countries can partner in production and development, ranging from big data to cognitive sciences to chemical and biological defense and material sciences while building on the scale and complexity of joint military exercises and maritime operations.
“Bureaucratic red tape within either of our governments must not bound the limits of our partnership and our initiatives,” he added. “That is especially true for our defense industrial cooperation.”
Hagel noted that more than $9 billion in defense contracts have been signed between both countries over the past six years. “But we can do more to forge a defense industrial partnership, one that would transform our nations’ defense cooperation from simply buying and selling to co-production, co-development and freer exchange of technology,” he told the audience.
The key means for doing so is the U.S.-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, begun in earnest two years ago and aimed at taking U.S.-India military relations to a new level through closer, long term partnerships, including within the defense industry. The initiative, he said, now has more than a dozen specific proposals for cooperation.
“But the challenge today is not a shortage of proposals,” the secretary said. “Instead, for both our nations, the challenge is to seize the opportunities.” One such opportunity, he said, is a plan for both nations to jointly develop a next generation anti-tank missile. “This is an unprecedented offer that we have made only to India and no one else,” he emphasized.
While calling the fundamentals of the U.S.-Indian relationship strong, Hagel did acknowledge strains come up at times. “We will not agree on every issue, on every proposal, nor do the closest of friends,” he said, but he added that as India looks east and the United States rebalances to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. and Indian interests across the full span of the Indo-Pacific region are aligned more closely than ever.
In closing, he told his audience, “I leave India today confident that, together our two nations will achieve the historic potential of this special partnership.”
Hagel had characterized his trip as a get-acquainted visit with the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while seeking to expand common interests. It comes just a week after a visit by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Both visits are intended to prepare for a White House visit by Modi next month.
For up-to-the-minute news about Hagel’s trip, follow the Defense Department’s official Twitter account, @DeptofDefense.
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