WASHINGTON: America’s defense sale with India is at an all time high, a top Pentagon commander today said, adding that it supports all Indian consideration of a number of US systems including F-35 joint strike fighter.
US Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry B Harris told the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on Indo-Pacific region that US-India strategic partnership continues to advance at a historic pace and has the potential to be the most consequential bilateral relationship of the 21st century.
"Defence sales are at an all-time high with India operating US- sourced airframes, such as P-8s, C-130Js, C-17s, AH-64s, and CH-47s, and M777 howitzers,” he said.
The US Pacific Command will sustain the momentum of the strategic relationship generated by the President-Prime Minister-level and the emerging 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue through strengthening the military-to-military relationship and working toward additional enabling agreements to enhance interoperability.
"At the moment, India is considering a number of US systems for purchase, all of which USPACOM fully supports: the F-16 for India’s large single-engine, multi-role fighter acquisition program; the F/A-18E for India’s multi-engine, carried-based fighter purchase; a reorder of 12-15 P-8Is; a potential purchase of SeaGuardian UAS; MH-60R multi-role sea-based helicopter; and F-35 Joint Strike," Harris said.
The US and India maintain a broad-based strategic partnership that is underpinned by shared democratic values, interests and strong people-to-people ties, and I expect 2018 to be a significant and eventful year in US-India relations, he said.
The US and India are natural partners on a range of political, economic, and security issues, he said.
"With a mutual desire for global stability and support for the rules-based international order, the US and India have an increasing convergence of interests, including maritime security and domain awareness, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and coordinated responses to natural disasters and transnational threats," he added.
"India will be among the US’s most significant partners in the years to come due to its growing influence and expanding military," Harris said.
"As a new generation of political leaders emerge, India has shown that it is more open to strengthening security ties with the US and adjusting its historic policy of non-alignment to address common strategic interests," he said.
Noting that the US seeks an enduring, regular, routine, and institutionalised strategic partnership with India, he said Pacific Command identifies a security relationship with India as a major command line-of-effort.
Over the past year, US and Indian militaries participated together in three major exercises, executed more than 50 other military exchanges, and operationalized the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, he added.