If you have watched cable news television in the last several months, you have probably seen a Make in India (MII) ad or two. To be sure, the US-Indian relationship is not only that of buyer-seller, it’s about prospective partnership in the defense sector: The US envisions India as a long-term, geostrategic and security partner. How India perceives this relationship going forward with respect to Russia and China will be telling.
Furthermore, there are high expectations for India’s role in Afghanistan, which have been improved by its willingness to re-engage dialogue with Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference earlier last week in Islamabad.
Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently reconnoitered in Washington, and their latest official meeting signals that the US is indeed paying more attention to Asia. Whether or not the US is cultivating a new "special relationship" remains to be seen; however, it is worth noting that India is the only country for whom US authorities have established a special cell within the Pentagon to handle defense collaboration.
The India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) falls under the purview of the International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The significance of this initiative should not be understated.
The United States ambassador to India said the two nations increasingly have a common vision of security across the Indo-Pacific region that is translating into “our forces and systems … becoming interoperable” for an array of missions.
Ambassador Richard Verma, speaking Friday at The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said this is particularly true in the maritime domain. In the past week, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar meet with Adm. Harry Harris, Pacific Command commander in Hawaii, and then flew on an MV-22 Osprey with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) to see first-hand carrier strike group operations as part of their two-day discussion “of deepening security relations.” Carter earlier in the year became the first American Defense secretary to tour an Indian operational command.
Verma added that 2015 marked the beginning of the nations’ Defense trade technology initiative (DTTI) to “further integrate our defense industries” most notably in aviation and aircraft carrier development. In the last year, the ambassador said bilateral defense trade amounted to $14 billion, including a $3 billion contract with Boeing to deliver AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters to India. In turn, India will manufacture some parts for the Apaches.
Looking ahead into early 2016, he cited India’s planned involvement in the next Rim of the Pacific exercise, the United States participation in India’s Fleet review in February and both participating in a regional special operations forces (SOF) exercise in January.
In a blast of rotor wash from a Marine MV-22 Osprey, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar came aboard one of the largest and most technical expressions of American power projection — a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Parrikar’s delegation of civilian officials and flag and general officers from all branches of the Indian military nibbled on treats from Ike’s galley before watching F/A-18s catapult from the flight deck and quizzing the ship’s crew on the day-to-day realities of carrier operations.
The trip — while a textbook execution of the Navy’s age-old distinguished visitor carrier visit program — took on extra significance as the U.S. and India continue to outline how the two countries could cooperate in constructing India’s second domestically built aircraft carrier and deepen bilateral operations.
Before departing the Pentagon on Thursday, Carter and Parrikar held a joint press conference to serve as an update on how defense cooperation between two countries is progressing since the early 2015 India and U.S. Defense Technology and Trade Initiative agreement.