US, India seek to deepen ties | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 07, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 07, 2018

US, India seek to deepen ties

Sign military communications accord during two-plus-two meeting in Delhi


♦ Deal opens up the way for sale of more sensitive US military equipment to India

♦ India, US to hold large military exercises in 2019


Top Indian and US officials yesterday touted deepening ties that will see greater cooperation between the two countries' militaries -- and will likely result in India buying more American arms.

The US has gone to great lengths to forge a closer bond with India as Washington seeks partners to push back against China's economic and military rise across the region.

As an example, Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced plans for the US and India to hold major military drills next year.

The drills would be a first of sorts -- the two countries' forces have not previously trained simultaneously in the air, on the land and at sea.

"We have decided to carry out for the first time a tri-services joint exercise with the United States off the eastern coast of India in 2019," Sitharaman said.

Joining Sitharaman for the talks was Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

After the summit, Pompeo said it had been "pretty special, historic, a level of relationship that the two countries had not previously had."

Aside from agreeing to joint drills, the two countries also signed a "Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement."

Known as COMCASA, this deal will allow the two countries to exchange sensitive military information quickly and securely.

Despite the friendly tone of the summit, there are plenty of issues India and the US do not see eye-to-eye on.

In 2016, Washington designated India as a "major defence partner", making it easier for the two countries to do arms deals.

India however is finalising a deal with Moscow to buy new systems including its S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missiles.

The US wants to wean India off Russian systems and onto American hardware. It already has sold US Apache attack helicopters and other gear, and is negotiating to sell armed drones to India.

In an apparent reference to China and its Belt and Road initiative -- which floods developing countries with cash for infrastructure projects that sometimes cannot be repaid -- Pompeo said the US and India wish to pursue "fundamental rights and liberties and prevent external economic coercion."

The talks were first meant to be held in April and then in June but both were postponed, triggering speculation of a rift.

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