New Delhi: From collaborating in capacity-building efforts with countries across the Indo-Pacific region to greater cooperation between the special forces of the two nations, India and the US are set to deepen ties as China flexes its muscles at its borders and in the South China Sea.
According to defence sources, the coming months and years will see a more collaborative effort by both India and the US in the Indo-Pacific, besides efforts to boost bilateral ties.
During the 2+2 dialogue Tuesday, when the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) was signed, the two sides also inked the Maritime Information Sharing Technical Arrangement (MISTA), which was not mentioned publicly, sources said.
In a joint statement issued after the dialogue, both sides welcomed enhanced maritime information sharing and maritime domain awareness between their navies. They also affirmed their commitment to building on existing defence information-sharing at the joint-service and service-to-service levels, and exploring potential new areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.
The big focus will be on greater collaboration in the strategic sphere than just purely tactical.
In an interview to ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the bilateral relationship between India and the US goes far beyond the current challenge presented by a “bullying” Chinese Communist Party.
India and US bet on more collaboration
In the days ahead, both India and the US will look to deepen bilateral defence consultation and collaboration, besides exploring opportunities to expand cooperative capacity-building efforts with partners across the Indo-Pacific.
Among other things, India and the US have agreed to increase cooperation between the Indian military and the US Central Command (CENTCOM) and Africa Command, including broader participation in exercises and conferences, so as to promote common security interests.
The Florida-based CENTCOM’s area of responsibility (AOR) spans more than 40 lakh square miles (1.04 crore square kilometres) and includes Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria.
The AOR of the Germany-based Africa Command includes 53 African states and oversees a region where China is increasingly pushing investments under Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.
After the 2+2 dialogue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said both sides explored probable capacity-building and other joint cooperation activities in third countries, including the Indian neighbourhood and beyond.
India and the US are also looking at deploying more liaison officers with each other to enable a smoother flow of information and work. At present, a liaison officer from the US Navy has been deputed at the Gurugram-based Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), which is jointly administered by the Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.
An Indian liaison officer has been deputed to the Bahrain-based United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).
The US is keen that India appoint liaison officers to the USINDOPACOM — the US’ Indo-Pacific command — and the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
“The big outcome of the 2+2 dialogue besides the signing of various agreements has been the decision to collaborate more, especially in the Indo-Pacific,” a source said.
The Indo-Pacific has been an area of interest for both India and the US, and Washington has been very keen on having New Delhi on its side as it re-balances to the region, much to the ire of the Chinese.
The Indo-Pacific includes the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea, where Chinese aggression has been a matter of concern for multiple nations. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, putting it at odds with Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
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