Less than a month after the 9/11 attack, the then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for fast tracking military-to-military co-operation with India, according to a latest declassified document.
Rumsfeld’s memo of less than 10 words reflects how the terrorist attack on twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001 changed America’s perception about India and the need it felt to enhance its military cooperation with India.
“Let’s get going on mil-to-mil with India,” Rumsfeld wrote in his “snowflakes” memo on October 2, 2001, according to the document released to the public by the National Security Archives on Thursday.
Snowflake is the term used to describe Rumsfeld’s usually one-page, often one-sentence, memos that he sent to his underlings to ask a question or issue an instruction. The memo is one page out of the 59,000 pages that the Pentagon has begun to provide in segments to the National Security Archive in response to its Freedom of Information Act suit.
In the document, there is not much of an insight as to how Rumsfeld planned to increase mil-to-mil cooperation with India. However, in the more than 16 years since then, India-US defence trade has jumped from near zero to more than USD 15 billion. The two countries now conduct the maximum number of joint exercises and the United States has designated India as its Major Defence Partner.
With a few exceptions, India has access to most of the latest defence equipment from the US. A February 2001 letter from Rumsfeld to the then Indian National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra indicates that New Delhi had concerns about America’s missile defense plans, which was announced earlier that year.
“While I understand you have some concerns about our plans for missile defense, we welcome discussions toward a shared US-Indian understanding of this issue,” Rumsfeld wrote in a letter to Mishra in February 2001, after the two leaders met at the recent Munich Conference on Security Policy.
“India and the US have major interests in common. I look forward to working with you in support of these interests,” Rumsfeld said and noted he looked forward to their continued cooperation, as they discuss these and other topics in the future.