Talks reaffirm growing US-India Partnership: US
"These talks really did reaffirm the strength of the relationship. There is genuine positive sentiment on both sides and a real desire to grow the relationship in a positive direction," Robert Scher, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia, told reporters.
Briefing a select group of media at the Pentagon, on the recently concluded 12th round of the Defence Policy Group meeting held in New Delhi on February 21 and 22, Scher said this is clearly one of the most important bilateral relationships that the US has with any country.
"Successive Secretaries of Defence have noted this and the guiding strategic documents for the Department (of Defence) have noted this as well.
"We are committed to this long term strategic partnership with India and believe that together we can very effectively serve our interest and create a stable and prosperous region," Scher said.
Co-chaired by the Acting Under Secretary of Defence for Policy James Miller and the Indian Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, the two-day meeting focused on four basic areas: defence procurement and production, technology cooperation, military-to-military cooperation and technical security.
Scher was in New Delhi last month for annual India-US security talks.
Noting that the purpose of the Defence Policy Group is to advance defence relationship between the two countries, Scher said US and India agreed to continue to priorities on maritime security cooperation, personnel exchanges, defense trade and developing new, cooperative research and development projects for the upcoming year.
"Certainly defence and security realm continues to be one of the greatest progress and promise in our overall relationship with India. And finally there is no better investment in the defence relationship than increasing the personal interaction between our officials and our service members," he said. Iran, did figure in the talks.
The meeting also added a new topic: best practices regarding strategy development and capability based planning.
"I have every confidence that the Indians have an excellent system to protect its technology….. The Indian system of protecting technology is quite strong and robust," he said.
"As we do more cooperative work with India, both nations deserve to know how each other protect technology. I think that would be the key to figure out how we can do more cooperative work together," he said.
Missile Defence System, he noted, did not come up during the talks. "We have, as you know, had discussions many years ago. had early discussions many years ago on missile defence and even some table top gaming. But that really has fallen off in recent years.
"It is something that we could certainly imagine restarting those talks we desire, but frankly there are a lot of other things that we are focused on with our relationship with India, in my mind are more important right now," Scher said.
"Honestly, I don`t know," he said why the missile defence system has fallen off.
On India rejecting US companies for its multi-billion deal, Scher said: "We were told by the Government of India that the US, both F-16 and F-18, did not meet the technical qualification that they laid out."
The package the US put for this competition, he argued, had a nearly unprecedented level of technology exchange and release for these purposes.
"I think, what is good for the United States is that India is a growing string nation and why it is good for us that we share so many common interests? While, we do not always have similar approaches, we all are trying to get to the same direction.
"So for me, the advantage to the United States is that as India grows and takes a larger role on the world stage… we will be pursuing similar goals," Scher said.