Ashton Carter to discuss India’s position as ‘major defence partner’

New York, Dec 8 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has said that he will discuss with Indian officials the impact of India being conferred the status of a “major defence partner” as the two democracies are “destined to be strategic partners in the future”.

Carter is arriving on Thursday for his second visit to India in 2016 as part of his farewell tour of major allies and partners before his term ends in December.

“I’ll be discussing with my Indian counterparts tomorrow … the major change we’re about to make in our export regulations as regards the status of India, a major defence partner,” he told reporters travelling with him to India on Wednesday.

“The significance of that is, first of all, it’s unique to India,” he said. “It permits us to do things with India that have never been possible before. And it creates a presumption of approval for transactions with India.”

About the major defence partner status, he said: “That’s pending, and that is very close to the finish line.”

While US President Barack Obama’s administration recognised India as a major defence partner for purposes of defence exports, the Congress was on the brink of passing legislation that would formally recognise this status for New Delhi.

The National Defence Authorisation Bill, which includes a provision, “Enhancing defence and security cooperation with India,” that asks the Defence Secretary to take steps to recognise India as a major defence partner of the US passed the House of Representatives on Monday, and it was expected to clear the Senate soon.

“There are a lot of projects that are underway under DTTI (Defence Technology and Trade Initiative),” he said, adding, “we’re working out the technical and sometimes economic details of them”.

He said that there was congruence of policies between India and the US.

The ties between the two nations “has grown by leaps and bounds just in the last few years” and for the future “it’s not a question of direction, it’s entirely a question of pace,” he said.

Another area of cooperation that has blossomed was joint military exercises, and India has “some desire” to have more of them, Carter said.

Some of these exercises also include Japan and Australia and this meshes in with Washington’s goal of forging broader defence networks, he added.