India, US talks to focus on deepening defence cooperation

Washington, Dec 10 (IANS) Visiting Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ash Carter are holding talks here Thursday focusing on strengthening and deepening defence cooperation under the US-India strategic partnership.

Carter, who hosted a dinner for Parrikar on Wednesday will host an enhanced honour cordon to welcome Parrikar to the Pentagon on the steps of the Pentagon River Entrance before their bilateral meeting Thursday.

After a joint press event, Carter and Parrikar will travel to USS Eisenhower to view flight operations while the ship is at sea.

Parrikar on Monday became the first Indian defence minister to visit US Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, according to US military news site Stars and Stripes.

PACOM commander Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. met with Parrikar at Camp H.M. Smith, where they discussed the growth of the US-India strategic partnership and the importance of expanded maritime security cooperation in military-to-military ties, a PACOM statement said.

Harris and Parrikar talked about the potential for joint US-India maritime patrols, it said without specifying where those might take place.

Although India does not border the South China Sea, the US has been urging allies and partner nations in the region to join in so-called freedom-of-navigation patrols near disputed islands on which China has built runways and other structures, a process that the US has characterized as “militarization.”

Harris encouraged senior Indian military leaders to participate in next year’s Chief of Defence Conference, the statement said.

Harris and Parrikar also discussed the numerous exercises in which both countries participate – Malabar, Yudh Abhyas, Red Flag, Vajra Prahar and RIMPAC – “re-emphasizing that the United States is still India’s partner of choice for exercises and military-to-military engagements,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Democrat Ami Bera and Republican George Holding, met with a delegation of Indian defence and aerospace industry leaders on Wednesday.

The meeting was organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to discuss how the US and India can work together to grow and innovate in the aerospace and defence industries.

“There are many opportunities for America and India to grow their strategic partnership,” Bera, the lone Indian-American Congressman, said.

“Today, we discussed how we can advance the US-India defence relationship and build on the partnership that has been created between the countries administrations,” he said. “I look forward to continuing this discussion when I travel with a Congressional delegation to India next year.”

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