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Friday, May 20, 2022

A sea change in relations

The United States and Indian militaries are partnering like never before

Written by Timothy J. Keating |
May 14, 2009 11:09:22 pm

Imagine the United States and Indian militaries combating piracy together in the Gulf of Aden,conducting complex exercises in the Pacific with ships of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force,sharing information to counter violent extremism,dog-fighting jets in the skies over Nevada,or deploying aboard a hospital ship with half a dozen other nations to provide medical assistance to thousands in need.  Such events were inconceivable twenty years ago.  Yet,today,we do all this and more on a surprisingly frequent basis. 

These engagements represent an exciting advance in our bi-lateral military relationship that began with the end of the Cold War.  They contribute to the maturation of the broader US-India relationship toward a global and strategic partnership.  This bodes well for both our nations,the Indian Ocean region,and the world.

Much of the dramatic change in the US-Indian military-to-military (mil-mil) relationship is due to direct interaction between US Pacific Command (USPACOM) forces and Indian Armed Forces.  Many times a year members of our armed forces engage in a variety of venues to strengthen this increasingly important relationship.  These events include senior-officer visits,bi- and multilateral military exercises,mid-grade officer subject matter expert exchanges,and policy and working group meetings.  During our extensive interaction we will learn,share,teach,and train together.  In doing so,we develop the personal and professional bonds upon which real trust and true friendship depend. 

Strategic partners

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USPACOM,one of six US Geographic Combatant Commands,oversees all US forces assigned to an area stretching from the west coast of North America to the western border of India.  We pursue a strategy of partnership,readiness and presence to enhance US relationships and the capability of our allies and partners to address shared challenges and leverage new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific. 

Partnership,readiness,and presence opportunities abound for US and Indian armed forces — the second and third largest in the world,respectively.  Together,we can be forces that preclude the necessity for combat operations,forces that enhance security and stability,and forces for good.  Some common focus areas include enhancing maritime security,countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,defeating violent extremism and piracy,and deepening defence trade.  Each of these presents an opportunity for the US and India to bond in cause and fortify our partnership.   


The time is right

Our current mil-mil relationship is a partnership not thought possible decades ago.  This relatively recent and rapid development is rooted in a genuine convergence of national interests.  And the time is right. Although two sovereign and independent nations,we are connected in many ways that make strengthening our partnership a wise course of action.  Fundamentally,we are connected by our understanding that national strength is rooted in individual worth and the freedom to pursue opportunity.  We are united by our commitment to basic democratic freedoms and institutions that we know offer the surest road to development and prosperity.  And as countries that have experienced the tragedy of terrorist attacks,we appreciate the importance of working together to defend our precious freedoms and to protect the stability of our crucial region.

We are also bound firmly by economic interdependence.  The United States is India’s largest trading partner.  International transactions between the US and India last year averaged more than six billion dollars a month.  And through our trade bonds we are inextricably linked by our dependence upon freedom of movement and secure access to international commerce routes. 

Stronger US-India ties also make sense demographically. India and the US represent two of the most vibrant large countries in the world.  Both are relatively young and growing sufficiently to support their own long-term prosperity.  Within the next two decades,India will surpass China as the most populous nation while the US will maintain its position as the third most populous.

Inconceivable reality

US-India relations are as strong as they have ever been.  Our two nations have a truly remarkable relationship for a variety of diverse and significant reasons.  When one considers the interests and causes we share,particularly as they relate to individual freedom and national strength,there is a remarkable convergence that can be the foundation of an even more robust partnership.  Given our common traditions,national attributes,and potential as partners,such a partnership benefits all who value the development and prosperity that security and stability enable.

We at United States Pacific Command,on our second visit to this great nation in as many years,understand profoundly what the United States and India can and must accomplish together.  We imagine what is possible by 2029,considering what we achieved in the past twenty years.  Let us together make the concept a reality.

The writer is the Commander of US. Pacific Command,a US Geographic Combatant Command headquartered in Honolulu,Hawaii.  To read the USPACOM strategy or for more information go to

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