May 13, 2016


How the US-India Defense Partnership Came to Blossom Under Modi : As Ash Carter's recent trip to India highlights, U.S.-India defense ties are ready for a new era. (Sourabh Gupta, May 13, 2016, The Diplomat)

[C]arter and Parrikar, during their unusually-engaged period of interaction (they've met four times in the past year), have laid the foundation of a new and elevated phase of strategic defense cooperation - U.S.-India Defense Partnership 2.0 - that will fundamentally, albeit incrementally, transform the means by which the Indian Navy and the U.S. Pacific Fleet engage each other within the confined reaches of the Eastern Indian Ocean and the southern Bay of Bengal.

The agreement to share logistics during peacetime will enable the two navies to mitigate capability gaps in broader Indian Ocean waters that have seen a growth in operational commitments. It will also breathe life into the India-U.S. Maritime Cooperation Framework agreement that had envisaged "an appropriate agreement on logistics support" - 10 years after its signing. The understanding to share aircraft carrier catapult-launch technology and design capabilities will enable the two navies to operate a complementary set of deck-based platforms (P-8I patrol aircraft; E-2D Hawkeye early warning aircraft; F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters - if agreement on co-production in India is reached) that will enable the two navies to operate separately but synergistically across the Indian Ocean domain.

With Beijing's progressive sub-surface penetration of the Indian Ocean now a fact, a navy-to-navy dialogue and at-sea exercises tailored to this undersea dimension will enable New Delhi to both remedy its under-preparedness in the area of anti-submarine sonars as well as deter the entry of PLAN nuclear attack submarines into the Bay of Bengal. In time, as U.S.-sourced advanced communications gear facilitates seamless and secure ship-shore and platform-to-platform intelligence-sharing, it will also open the door - and the eyes of the Indian Navy's civilian masters - to the virtues of a more interoperable equation with the U.S. Navy along strategic approaches to the eastern Indian Ocean.

A couple of years from now, it is likely that the Indian Navy and the U.S. Pacific Fleet, individually, will operate a set of network-centric intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets that allow a common information picture about the eastern Indian Ocean to be formed and exchanged as well as provide a basis for cooperative responses to possible threats.

Credit for the renewal of defense-maritime ties goes to both parties. The proximate catalyst for the stepped-up engagement was the Modi government's willingness to cast aside its inherited blinkers and re-evaluate three Bush administration-era foundational defense agreements (on logistics, encrypted communications, and geo-spatial mapping) with a fresh set of eyes. A 'non-paper' to this end was solicited from the Pentagon in late-2014. Of even greater consequence has been laudable openness to jettisoning India's long-standing disinclination to be associated in any way, shape or form with extra-regional strategy and purpose in its hitherto jealously-guarded Indian Ocean zone of core interest.

For his part, Carter deserves credit for his perseverance in working through the fundamental alignment-autonomy contradiction that afflicts U.S.-India strategic ties to tease out a middle ground that combines New Delhi's longing for defense technology-sharing (to boost autonomous capabilities) with Washington's yearning for navy-to-navy interoperability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Posted by at May 13, 2016 6:55 PM