WASHINGTON: There is a "historic opportunity" for the US to partner with India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, a top American think tank said today, urging the Trump administration to assist New Delhi in enhancing its defence capabilities.
The Atlantic Council in a memo to US President Donald Trump on the eve of Modi's arrival said the three areas where India needs to enhance its defence capabilities are navy, space and unmanned drones.
"Partnering with India could help the US advance its own security interests, as well as counter the Chinese penchant for aggression in the Indo-Asia region," Bharath Gopalaswamy director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Centre, said in a memo to the president.
Gopalaswamy said the US should assist India by providing it with the means to maintain a "commanding position" in the Indian Ocean region.
"Such a policy would bolster Indian capacity through the sale of maritime and surveillance technologies while also spurring domestic business growth and job creation here in the United States. India particularly needs assistance in three domains—carrier aviation, space surveillance, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)," he asserted.
However, the memo warns Trump on raising the H-1B issue with Indians.
"Your desire to return outsourced information technology services to the United States would cost India economically.
Such policies would also pose a hindrance for bilateral trade and impede further cooperation. While appealing in the short term, such policies may inflict greater long-run costs to US security interests," the memo said.
Noting that during his visit, Modi will aim to strengthen the India-US security partnership in order to counter an increasingly aggressive China, the memo said this is a major break from India's traditional, non-aligned status and will offer the US best opportunity to partner with India to address growing security challenges posed by China.
"India's potent geostrategic location and status as a rising power makes it an ideal partner for US cooperation. The United States should take advantage of this position to work with India as a leader as well as a balancer wherever and whenever applicable," the Atlantic Council said.
"India worries that China is increasingly challenging American primacy in the 'command of the commons'—in the air, space, and on the high seas. Disagreements over issues such as the South China Sea pose a threat to US dominance given the area's strategic significance," the memo wrote.
India sees China as being heavily invested in establishing its presence as an economic superpower across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and even Europe, as well as the Indian Ocean region seen as India's sphere of strategic influence, it said.
With the advance of China's 'Belt and Road Initiative', the Chinese military footprint will extend all the way from the Mediterranean to Guam, it added.
"As naval powers, the United States and India must have unfettered access to international sea lanes that Beijing intends to restrict and control; thus, a closely coordinated US-India policy toward China is imperative," the memo said.