NEW DELHI: The US has proposed a dramatic scaling-up of strategic relations with India that will involve posting of military liaison officers at each other’s combatant commands. The proposal was put forward by US Ambassador Kenneth I Juster here as he sketched US President Donald Trump’s agenda for India.
The objective was to take relations “from the strategic to the durable”.
Juster did not put a timeframe on the posting of military liaison officers, but he firmly tabled an issue that has been mentioned only behind closed doors. “Over time, we should expand officer exchanges at our war colleges and our training facilities, and even at some point post reciprocal military liaison officers at our respective combatant commands,” he said in his first speech after taking over office.
Juster also proposed a multi-service military exercise, involving armies, navies, marines and air forces of the two countries. Though India and the US have a series of annual military exercises, they are restricted to single services. India has had only one multi-service exercise with Russia, but has the maximum number of military exercises with the US.
The US ambassador’s suggestions ride on the back of the US National Security Strategy put out by Washington in December that described India as a major world power. Juster said the US sees India as a major power in “the Indo-Pacific and beyond”. The phrase “Indo-Pacific” has gained greater currency since the Trump takeover and is aimed at emphasising the centrality of India in the US’ scheme in the region earlier described as the “Asia-Pacific”.
“A related and equally important objective is to continue our support to India as a net provider of regional security, capable of responding successfully to threats to peace, especially in the Indian Ocean and its vicinity. We can advance these objectives in several ways, which we expect to discuss this spring in our new 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue and incorporate in a roadmap to drive action on both sides,” said Juster.
The 2 + 2 dialogue refers to the joint talks between the ministers of defence and foreign affairs of both countries.
The US expects that issues between the militaries—such as the signing of a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement—would be resolved. He also expected major defence deals by 2019. Juster suggested India take advantage of the nervousness among US companies in China and attract investment.