A top US commander on Tuesday said that defence sales between India and the US are at an all-time high and bilateral strategic partnership continues to advance at an historic pace.
Testifying before members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, during a Congressional hearing, Admiral Philips Davidson, Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) said that the inaugural 2+2 Ministerial in New Delhi last September and signing of the COMCASA in 2018 were pivotal moments in the bilateral relationship.
India and the United States had last year signed the COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) to facilitate interoperability between the two militaries and sale of high end technology.
"The US-India strategic partnership continues to advance at an historic pace as we continue to increase our interoperability and information-sharing capabilities," he said.
The USINDOPACOM expects this trajectory to continue and that 2019 will be a significant year in bilateral relations, he said and asserted that the two largest democracies of the world are natural partners on a range of political, economic and security issues.
"With a mutual desire for global stability, support for the rules-based international order, and a Free-and-Open Indo-Pacific region, the United States and India have an increased agreement on interests, including maritime security and maritime domain awareness, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and coordinated responses to natural disasters and transnational threats," Davidson said.
Over the past year, the United States and Indian militaries participated in five major exercises, executed more than fifty other military exchanges, and further operationalized the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), he informed the lawmakers.
"The LEMOA enables the US Navy to replenish supplies from Indian navy logistics platforms,” he said.
Davidson said that the US Indo Pacific Command is working with the Indian military to operationalise the COMCASA.
"Defence sales are at an all-time high, with India operating US sourced platforms such as P-8s, C-130Js, C-17s, AH-64s, CH-47s, and M777 howitzers," the top American admiral said.
"Additionally, India recently agreed to a USD2.1-billion purchase of MH-60R multi-role sea-based helicopters and is considering a number of additional US systems for purchase,"Davidson said.
The US Indo Pacific Command fully supports the purchase of US systems, F-16 and F/A-18E aircraft, a reorder of 12-15 P-8Is, and a potential purchase of Sea Guardian UASs, he told members of the US pacific Command.
Observing that the goal of the US Indo Pacific Command in South Asia is to create and seize opportunities to broaden critical partnerships to ensure shared domains remain open to all, he said in conjunction with India's contributions to regional security, these actions will prevent adversaries from establishing an effective military presence in the Indian Ocean that threaten the security of vital commerce and continued economic growth and development.
"As a result, the regional states will be able to reduce internal conflicts, respond to regional security challenges, and resist adversaries’ military and economic coercion," he said.
(With PTI inputs)