India, US now ‘major defence partners’

The US gave India the status of a “major defence partner” — on a par with some of Washington’s closest allies, like the Europeans and the Japanese.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Washington Dc | Updated: June 9, 2016 6:07 am
Modi in US, Modi Obama, Obama Modi, India Major Defence Partner, Priority Partner, Missile technology control regime, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Pathankot Attack, Mumbai Attack, Asia-Pacific, Indo US joint Statement, latest news, India News The US gave India the status of a “major defence partner” — on a par with some of Washington’s closest allies, like the Europeans and the Japanese. (Source: AP)

Making India a “major defence partner” of the US in technology transfer and a “priority partner” in the Asia-Pacific, asking other countries to support India’s bid for admission to the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and treating the Pathankot terror attack with the same level of seriousness as the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks — these are some of the major outcomes of the Indo-US joint statement, issued hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Read | White House: India a ‘major defence partner’ for United States

These, apart from the setting up of six nuclear reactors in India by Westinghouse, a separate joint document focusing on cyber security and a funding initiative towards climate change, were described as “consolidation” of the gains made over the last few years.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar called the Westinghouse decision to go ahead with six AP1000 reactors a “big, decisive step forward”.

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However, unlike the previous 2015 joint statement, two notable issues were missing from this one — a reference to the Haqqani network was quietly dropped and there was no direct reference to South China Sea in the document either.

Titled “The United States and India: Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century”, the joint statement puts cooperation in the strategic sector — from defence to cyber security, terrorism to export control regimes, nuclear to Asia-Pacific — at the centre stage.

In the defence sector, the US gave India the status of a “major defence partner” — on a par with some of Washington’s closest allies, like the Europeans and the Japanese. The joint statement called their defence relationship an “anchor of stability”.

This means that the US is willing to transfer technology to India, just like it does with its “closest allies and partners”. India can now receive licence-free access to a wide range of dual-use technologies that are critical to defence.

“This will give us access to better quality and faster access to defence technology… and access to dual-use technology.

It will also help the Make-in-India initiative,” Jaishankar said, calling it as a “big step”. These issues were separately discussed when Defence Secretary Ashton Carter called on Modi on Tuesday afternoon.

On India’s bid to become a member of the four export control regimes, the US called on all NSG countries to support India’s application at the plenary meeting on June 24. The two countries also, for the first time, confirmed that they were looking forward to “India’s imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)”.

“US has been supportive of the NSG process… and we count on US’s support,” Jaishankar said, adding that there were “expressions of welcome” on MTCR.

Moving ahead from the 2015 joint strategic vision on Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region, the two countries declared themselves “priority partners” — a move that may not go down well with China.

In a new area of cooperation, ‘Cyber’ was identified as a “common space and threat”. Again aimed at Beijing, a separate joint document was reached to finalise the framework for the US-India Cyber Relationship in the near term. “They committed to enhance cyber collaboration on critical infrastructure, cyber crime, and malicious cyber activity by state and non-state actors…,” the joint statement said.

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In a veiled reference to China, they also emphasised that “no country should conduct or knowingly support online activity that intentionally damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use of it to provide services to the public”.

The US also called on Pakistan to bring perpetrators of the 2016 Pathankot terror attack and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks to justice.

However, Washington’s selective branding of terrorists was apparent as the Haqqani network — one of the listed groups in the January 2015 statement that has been accused of attacking the Indian embassy in Kabul in the past — was dropped from the joint statement. The Haqqani network are going to replace Mullah Mansour as the next Taliban chief and the US — which is willing to negotiate with the Taliban — appears to have backed off on account of this.

The statement said that the leaders are committed to strengthening cooperation against terrorist threats from extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Jaish-e Mohammad, LeT, the D Company and their affiliates.

Both Modi and Obama affirmed their support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that advances and strengthens the framework for global cooperation and reinforces that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism. “There has broadly been a meeting of minds,” the foreign secretary said.

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