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'India a Major Defence Partner': Obama's Farwell Promissory Note to New Delhi

Ashton Baldwin Carter’s final visit to India as outgoing Secretary of Defence could cast Obama’s India military outreach in stone.

08/12/2016 10:22 PM IST | Updated 09/12/2016 12:20 AM IST
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US President Barack Obama speaks on counterterrorism at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

The outgoing Obama administration has proposed an exceptionally liberal export control regime for the incoming Trump presidency for transfer of defence technology to India.

The Obama administration's agenda for Trump includes a proposal for bigger and more frequent bilateral and tri-lateral military exercises involving India with Japan and Australia.

Outgoing US Secretary of Defence Ashton Baldwin Carter on Thursday told Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that the US government has finalised licensing rules. Earlier, in June, the United States had declared India as a "major defence partner" paving the way for large-scale transfer of technology and trade in military machinery.

Carter is on an official visit – perhaps his last - to India. He met Parrikar in New Delhi on Thursday. This is the seventh interaction between the two leaders.

"Today we finalised India's designation as a "Major Defense Partner" of the United States," a joint statement issued after the meeting said. "The designation as a "Major Defense Partner" is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defense trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States' closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future," the statement said. Importantly, it places India "at par with that of the United States' closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future," the joint statement said.

"Institutionalising" the process could make it obligatory for the Trump presidency to honour bi-partisan support for India-US defence relations.

Importantly, Carter also told journalists that US wanted India to play a bigger role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The US pushing for a bigger role of India in Afghanistan is unlikely to be welcome in Islamabad. Pakistan has alleged that India was using Afghanistan to act against its interest. And, in the past, it has demanded that India scale down its engagement in Afghanistan. India has mainly funded several developmental projects in Afghanistan.

"The US finally realised that India is legitimate stake holder in Afghanistan. It is also an acknowledgment that India has played a constructive role and therefore an indication that it is willing to support a larger role in Afghanistan," Defence analyst Nitin Gokhale told Huffington Post.

Also, Carter told journalists that Pakistan should stop helping and supporting terrorist groups who are destabilising Afghanistan, targeting American and coalition soldiers and India. "I have said to their leaders for some time now..... Terrorism poses a principal strategic danger to the Pakistani state" he said.

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