The United States and India are taking steps to strengthen their defense partnership, officials said Tuesday, the latest sign of cooperation between the two countries in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
The plans emerged following two days of meetings in Washington between government and business officials from the two countries and include greater collaboration on military-related industries and operational coordination in the Indo-Pacific.
Key among them are cooperation on developing jet engines and military munitions technology, according to a White House fact sheet. Specifically, it said the US government would look to expedite a review of an application by US manufacturer General Electric to build jet engines in India for use on indigenous Indian aircraft.
Operationally, the US and Indian militaries would look to build up maritime security and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the fact sheet said.
US Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks told Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval that “building alliances and partnerships are a top priority” for the Pentagon, in what she said was “the region’s increasingly contested strategic environment,” according to a Defense Department statement.
Hicks said building the partnerships was a major objective of the US’ 2022 National Defense Strategy, which calls China a “growing multi-domain threat.”
While the US has seen China building up its military forces in areas near Taiwan and key US ally Japan, India’s forces have clashed with Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control, the ill-defined border between the two nations high in the Himalayas.
The US and India, along with Japan and Australia, are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – known as the Quad – an informal group focused on security that dates back to the early 2000s. It has become more active in recent years as part of efforts to counter China’s reach and territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific.
On the sidelines of a Quad summit in Tokyo last May, US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the US-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET).
The meetings this week were the first under the scheme and brought together dozens of government officials, industry CEOs and senior academics from both countries.
In addition to defense technologies, Washington and New Delhi would work to “expand international collaboration in a range of areas — including artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and advanced wireless,” the White House fact sheet said.
A major industrial part of the meetings was an agreement to develop the semiconductor industry in India, which has the educated and skilled workforce needed to become a major player in building those key components.
Additionally, the two countries pledged to help develop next generation telecommunications in India, including 5G and 6G advanced cell phone technologies.
Washington and New Delhi also agreed to enhance cooperation in space, including helping India develop astronauts, its commercial space sector and role in planetary defense.