Thank you for the invitation to be here today. It is a pleasure to speak to you today as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Security in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, or PM.
Before I address the security relationship between India and the United States, I want to speak briefly about PM’s role within the State Department.
The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs integrates diplomacy and defense, forging strong international partnerships to meet shared security challenges.
Regulating arms transfers and defense trade, directing security assistance, building partner capacity, negotiating security agreements, exchanging personnel with DoD to strengthen the defense-diplomacy relationship—these are just some of PM’s efforts to further United States security policy.
As the U.S.-India partnership grow stronger, PM will play a key role in working with our Indian partners to strengthen the defense ties between our two nations.
1. U.S.-India Defense Relationship Overview
The growing U.S.-India strategic partnership is broad and multi-faceted, and it has grown deeper under the leadership of President Trump and Prime Minister Modi.
As enshrined in our National Security Strategy, the United States welcomes India’s emergence as a leading global power and its role as a net security provider in the region.
India is one of our most important partners in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S.-India partnership stands upon a shared commitment to the rule of law, freedom of navigation, democratic values, and economic growth.
India’s contributions toward capacity building, peace-keeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations have been essential to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific and upholding the rules-based international order. Likewise, its participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises across the region has brought great benefit to its partners.
I am confident that the strong and upward trajectory of our partnership will continue. As evidenced by the success of our first ever tri-service military exercise—Tiger Triumph—the security ties between the United States and India can only grow stronger.
2. Defense Trade
Defense trade is a key area that can strengthen the security relationship between our two nations.
The United States sees defense trade as a tool to strengthen security. At the same time, it also reinforces our strategic partnership through greater interaction and interoperability between armed forces and builds greater understanding between our defense establishments on shared threats.
U.S. Foreign Military Sales and co-production with Indian industry yield significant benefits to both India’s national security and to American and Indian workers. Bilateral defense trade today between India and the United States is estimated to reach $16 billion, from essentially zero in 2008, and we hope to see that trade increase in the years to come.
This trade also makes Indian military forces more capable partners, which is why as India restructures its forces, we want to continue to offer the highest quality, most dependable, and most technologically advanced products on the market to India. U.S. foreign military sales yield significant benefits to both India’s national security and American and Indian workers.
To this end, the U.S. government has enabled American companies to export more high-technology items to India, including cutting-edge defense platforms like armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and ballistic missile defense systems. India was the first non-treaty partner to be offered the Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System, manufactured by General Atomics.
Capabilities such as the Chinook helicopter and M777 howitzer are already fielded by the Indian military, and India operates the largest fleets of P-8 and C-17 aircraft outside of the United States.
The United States also appreciates India’s efforts to develop its own manufacturing base. A capable and vibrant Indian defense manufacturing base is in our mutual interest, as it helps increase the Indian military’s capability and capacity, while also contributing to the global supply chain of democratic defense manufacturers.
I want to speak now to a few specific defense trade items.
Since declaring India a Major Defense Partner in 2016, we have made a number of unprecedented decisions to offer advanced systems that, should India choose the American solution, will bring tangible national security benefits to the United States and to India. Unmanned aerial systems, NASAMS, naval helicopters, and naval guns are all part of strong a steadily improving U.S.-India defense trade.
The Indian Air Force and Navy fighter competitions are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to more closely align the United States and India. During her December 2018 visit to the United States, Minister Sitharaman acknowledged the “generational change” that can occur when fighter pilots receive the best training opportunities with the most technologically advanced aircraft. We strongly believe choosing a U.S. fighter aircraft presents an opportunity to not only fulfill military requirements but to deepen our partnership.
For the fighter competitions, the United States will offer some of the best technology widely employed by our Navy and Air Force: the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the F-21, which is tailored for the Indian Air Force.
U.S. fighter aircraft would bolster India’s defense capabilities; expand its defense industrial base; and position it as a supplier in the global defense-sales ecosystem shared by our network of allies and partners.
3. Concluding Remarks
The security relationship between India and the United States continues to grow. From increasing military cooperation, exercises, and defense trade, the United States will continue to work with India to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
It is my sincere hope that the work we undertake here will contribute to this upward trajectory.
Thank you again for the invitation and the opportunity to participate. The State Department greatly value engagements which enable us to reach you in person and receive your valuable and candid insights.