'US-India Ties a Partnership of Equals'

Washington, Aug 25 (IANS): Calling India a major regional and global power, a senior defence department official has said the US views their bilateral relationship as a partnership of equals with common security interests.

High-level visits have cemented the two countries' commitment to their bilateral relationship, which is a priority for the Obama administration, Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia, said at the New America Foundation Wednesday.

"India is a major regional and global power," he said. "We view our relationship with India as a partnership of equals-two nation states with a commonality of security interests in the Indian Ocean region and beyond."

Scher said the most important thing the United States is doing in its defence relationship with India is building mutual trust and understanding that will help to ensure that common values and interests can translate into common approaches.

"The United States and India share a clear desire for freedom of navigation and unimpeded sea lines of communication, particularly in the Indian Ocean," he said.

Together, the United States and India have an important role in fostering multilateral cooperation in Asia and supporting the emerging regional security architectures, Scher said.

"Overall," he added, "we will increasingly look to India's leadership and partnership in promoting and maintaining security in the region and the world."

The United States and India, Scher said, "are destined to be closer because of our shared interests and values, democracy, human rights and our desire for a stable, secure and inclusive world economy."

All of this, he added, "makes us natural partners."

Three key areas in the US-India defence relationship are people-to-people ties, military engagement and defence sales, he said.

Examples of people-to-people ties include attendance by service members from both nations at US and Indian military educational institutions, Scher said. Military-to-military engagements are another element of the US-India defence partnership, he said.

"We partner with the Indians on a number of educational, doctrinal, institutional, training and other subject matter exchanges," Scher added.

"These engagements and exercises provide opportunities for our militaries to work together and learn from each other, ... and most importantly, they improve our ability to address real-life challenges."


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