India, US deepen defense ties during Mattis visit

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, shakes hands with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Indian Ministry of Defense prior to a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 27 September 2017

India, US deepen defense ties during Mattis visit

NEW DELHI: India and the US have agreed to enhance maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean, deepen defense ties and undertake joint efforts against terrorism.
In a day-long visit on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis met with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi.
“It’s a historic opportunity to reshape the relationship, and the US recognizes India as a core of regional stability and security, and it reflects our desire for long-term strategic partnership in the 21st century,” Mattis said in a statement after the meeting.
Sitharaman said: “Defense cooperation between India and the US has grown significantly in recent years, and has emerged as a key pillar of our strategic partnership.”
Mattis, the Trump administration’s first Cabinet secretary to visit India, said “as global leaders, India and the United States resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge” of terrorism.
Mattis expressed appreciation over India’s role in “promoting democracy and security” in Afghanistan, but Sitharaman said: “There shall not be any Indian boots on the ground.”
An Indian Defense Ministry source told Arab News: “The US wants New Delhi to play a proactive role, but India isn’t willing to do that. This is a point of difference between the two countries.”
There was no announcement on the sale of Guardian unmanned drones to India. Washington had offered to sell them during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June.
“The deal on the Guardian drones depends on the US Congress. The White House has just approved it,” Dhruva Jaishankar, a fellow in foreign policy studies at Brookings India, told Arab News.
There was no statement on the proposal to manufacture F-16 and F-18A fighter planes in India, as was anticipated.
“Secretary Mattis and I agreed that we need to expand on the progress already made by encouraging co-production and co-development efforts,” said Sitharaman. “I reiterated India’s deep interest in enhancing defense manufacturing in India.”
Chintamani Mohapatra, an academic at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “Defense deals take time to mature. The important partnership between India and the US is important for global peace and stability, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Mattis said: “Maritime engagement is our top priority. Annual maritime security dialogue is an important mechanism to develop shared understanding of the challenges we face.”
Some experts say this is aimed at counterbalancing China’s growing maritime presence in the Indian Ocean.
“Beijing is using its maritime power to block freedom of navigation for other parties. That’s a major concern for both New Delhi and Washington,” said Jaishankar.

India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018

India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

  • Afghan, Indian leaders “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership”
  • The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

NEW DELHI: India and Afghanistan reviewed bilateral civil and military cooperation during a one day of meetings in  New Delhi on Wednesday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which the two sides “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership.”

A press release from the Indian Prime Minister’s office announced after the meeting: “It was agreed to deepen the New Development Partnership in the areas of high impact projects in this field of infrastructure, human resources development and other capacity-building projects in Afghanistan.” 

 The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

 “I would like to thank the Indian people for their commitment to Afghanistan's future,” Ghani said in a speech in New Delhi before leaving for Kabul.

“What India-Afghanistan share is deep and binding trust in democratic institutions,” he added.

Modi supported an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process” and pledged “India's unwavering commitment to support the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to this end, as also for the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan.”

 “Peace with the Taliban is important so that we can concentrate on counter-terrorism. The Taliban is part of Afghan society, ISIS (using another term for the terror group Daesh) is not. We must make that distinction,” Ghani said in his address at the New Delhi-based think tank, India Foundation.

 Commenting on Ghani’s visit, Vishal Chandra of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a New Delhi-based think tank, said: “The timing of the visit is significant; he has come at a time when the Afghan forces are under great pressure from the Taliban and Daesh.” He added that Ghani was looking for wider regional support in initiatives to stem the rising tide of terrorism.

Talking to Arab News, Chandra underlined that “there is no question of India involving itself militarily in Afghanistan, but it might step up its efforts to ensure that they have better air capability and they don’t have shortage of ammunition. I don’t expect India to supply heavy weaponry.”

Harsh V. Pant, director of the think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said: “Despite India scaling up its presence in the defence sector, New Delhi’s military presence in Afghanistan is limited.

“The appetite in India for military involvement is very small; there is no consensus about the military footprints New Delhi should have in Afghanistan. But there is a consensus that New Delhi’s security cooperation with Kabul should be extended and should be robust and that is what India is doing.” 

In his book “India’s Afghanistan Muddle” Pant argued that “India cannot evolve its equity in Afghanistan unless some form of military involvement happens.”

Pant told Arab News: “The visit of Ghani at this time is a sign of a certain maturity in the relationship where Afghanistan feels that India should be kept in a loop. The relationship has grown to an extent that two sides are comfortable with each other in sharing assessment about where the political trajectory is going.”