India will be participating in two major military exercises, Exercise Rim of the Pacific and Exercise Red Flag next year. This was announced by US Defence Secretary, Ash Carter during a joint press conference with the visiting Indian defence minister, Manohar Parrikar at Pentagon. Parrikar is on a 8-day long visit to the US, which concludes on December 12.
Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, hosted and administered by the US Navy. RIMPAC is held biennially during June and July, and 22 countries had participated in the 2014 edition of the exercise. Exercise Red Flag is an advanced aerial combat training exercise hosted by the US Air Force at Nevada and India will be returning to this exercise in 2016 after a gap of eight years.
Emphasising the strategic partnership between India and the US, Carter described the bilateral cooperation as “a handshake of two complimentary initiatives: Make in India and Defence Technology Transfer Initiative (DTTI), and India’s Act East policy and America’s Rebalance step in Asia.” Carter also pointed out India’s importance to Indo-Asia-Pacific security architecture, linking it to India’s rise as a security provider in the region.
Buttressing the point in his remarks, Parrikar said that India is now a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. He also mentioned that India now conducts more military exercises with the US than any other country in the world.
Parrikar said that terrorism has been a key topic for discussion in all his engagements in the US, and India continues to share intelligence with the US about ISIS and other terror groups in the Middle East. Beyond that, there has been no change in India’s policy towards the Middle East region. In reply to a question about Muslims and terrorism raised by US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, Parrikar clarified that India doesn’t discriminate between people of various religions, except for persons who have been radicalised or have taken to terrorism.
Both Carter and Parrikar were silent about the three foundational agreements — the Communications Inter-Operability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the LSA (Logistics Support Agreement) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) — which the US wants India to sign for full transfer of defence technologies. India has so far refused to sign these agreements because it fears that this would grant the US military unencumbered access to Indian military installations and compromise sensitive data.
A US defence department official, on condition of anonymity, told The Indian Express that Parrikar has showed an open mind on signing the LSA during his interaction with Carter. The US official was hopeful that once LSA is signed, the two sides could move on to signing other agreements.
Carter and Parrikar highlighted the centrality of DTTI – where US will share technology with India to jointly develop defence products — to the bilateral defence relationship. Carter said that he had discussed the progress on jet engines and aircraft carrier with Parrikar. Parrikar said that he has demanded higher end transformative technologies under DTTI from the US. He said that after a lukewarm response for first four months, the progress on DTTI projects has now picked up, with two projects being concluded and two others in final stages. Parrikar was also hopeful of greater progress on DTTI in the next six months.