The US-India military ties has been an “extraordinary story” of the past decade and the bilateral relationship based on democratic values “stands on its own”, according to a top American diplomat.
Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, said both India and China are leading powers but ties with India are based on democratic values.
“The US supports peaceful and stable relations globally among all countries, including India and China. Our goal, ultimately, in the Indo-Pacific region, is every nation should be able to work together to uphold international norms and to prosper,” Wells said during a Congressional Subcommittee hearing on South Asia yesterday.
She said the Trump administration “obviously strongly supports” a prosperous India that plays a leading global role.
“Both China and India are leading powers, but our relationship with India really stands on its own. And it stands on its own because it’s based on democratic values, on close political and economic ties,” she said.
Wells was responding to a question from Congressman Ted Yoho, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and The Pacific.
“With President Trump’s speech… where he was talking about our pivot with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and India’s more increasing role with Afghanistan, and we saw India’s willingness to stand up to China in the northern territory, and then we saw the resolution of that peacefully, thank God,” Yoho said.
“Are there provisions in our proposed budget that could help deepen the US-India security partnership, which could be beneficial in checking China’s unwarranted territorial claims through the rest of Asia?” Yoho asked.
Wells did not give direct answer to the China question.
But she said the military relationship between the US and India in the past 10 years “has been an extraordinary story, wherein the military sales jumped from zero to USD15 billion”.
“We’re currently holding the largest military exercise with India and Japan, the Malabar exercise, that brings together 10,000 personnel and our largest carriers. With India as a major defence partner, we are able to now offer advanced technologies. During the visit of Prime Minister Modi with President Trump in June, we had the unprecedented offer of the nonlethal Sea Guardian UAV for maritime security,” she said.
“Now we want to build on that military partnership. India over the next seven years, is projected to spend USD 30 billion in military modernisation. Our companies, like Boeing and Lockheed, with the F-18s and the F-16s, are natural competitors. It would deeply enhance our interoperability with India,” Wells said.
“But then how do we build that relationship further outwards? We are already working with Japan. There are opportunities to work with Australia. How do we, as democratic nations that share values, enshrine those values? And again, freedom of navigation, demilitarisation, working together on disaster response, humanitarian assistance, setting a standard for the region,” said the top US diplomat.
Responding to a question, Wells said the Trump administration is working to reduce trade deficit with India.
“The administration is doing an assessment of the top countries with trade deficits and the goal is to equalise and reduce those trade deficits,” she said.
“And in the case of India, there are obvious areas where we can work to improve IPR protection, to reduce nontariff barriers. We have several high-level, serious dialogues through USTR and the Department of Commerce to tackle specific sectoral issues. We’ve used the WTO in the case of our chicken, our poultry and egg exports, where we expect India to implement the WTO ruling.” she said.