Washington: Observing that defence relationship between India and the United States is on the "right track", a top Republican Senator has said that the future American defence strategy should recognise the power of collaborating with "proven and steady allies" like India.
"Looking long-term is part of the process, and our future defence strategy should recognise the power of collaborating with proven and steady allies like India," Senator Roger Wicker said in his remarks on 'The Indo-Pacific Seas: Changes and Challenges for the Indian and US Navies in the 21st Century'.
Speaking at the luncheon event organised by US India Security Forum and Indian American Forum for Political Education, the Senator noted that he expects bi-lateral ties with India to play a major role in US foreign policy in the years ahead. He is Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee.
"If the last few years are any indication, India and the United States are moving in the right direction. The 10-year New Framework Agreement signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush in 2005 put a solid roadmap in place for greater bilateral cooperation," Wicker said.
The vision was for India and the United States to strengthen their defence ties through military exercises, information sharing, technology development, and responses to security and humanitarian issues, he said.
"We can be encouraged by the progress that has been made since that milestone. Military sales between the United States and India have grown exponentially to more than USD 8 billion and joint military exercises have increased dramatically in scale and frequency," he said.
The Republican Senator said that India now conducts more than 50 military exercises a year with America - more than any other country.
"There is plenty of work to do. A cooperative defence trade relationship requires a serious commitment from the United States to the modernisation of our Cold War-era export control system. In turn, India must be committed to a fair and open defence acquisition process that upholds transparency and interoperability with friends and partners," he said.
Noting that it is exciting that the relationship between the US and India has become a partnership of growing confidence, he hoped the economic, diplomatic, and military cooperation will continue to flourish and prove successful in ensuring regional stability and security.
Senator Wicker said he is encouraged by India's leadership in helping Afghanistan rebuild, including the training of Afghan soldiers and investment in infrastructure like highways and hospitals. India's assistance is more than USD2 billion.
"These investments and partnerships are critical to Afghanistan's future and ultimately the fight against terrorism," he said.
Observing that India has been a longtime champion of counterterrorism efforts and stopping al-Qaeda, Wicker said as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan, continued vigilance is essential to keeping terrorist networks from finding a haven there.
"I am hopeful India will continue to be a major player in promoting regional and global security. There is no doubt that India's international presence is expanding evidenced by its extensive involvement in UN peacekeeping missions, trade agreements, and joint counterterrorism measures," he said.