US hopes to ink defence pact with India
The US is hopeful of concluding a key military logistics agreement with India and making progress on other foundational pacts in the defence sector ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit here next month, a top American official has said.
"We are hopeful that progress would be made on some of the foundational agreements including the logistics agreement that might be concluded prior to the (US) visit (of Prime Minister) and we are looking to see if there are other things that we can take on board," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on India.
Biswal made the remarks while responding to questions on possibility of signing any security agreements between India and the US during the Prime Minister's visit.
Biswal said after Defence Secretary Ashton Carter's recent visit to India, the two countries are moving toward concluding a logistics exchange memorandum of understanding, which would allow the armed forces of the two countries to use each other's bases for resupply and repair.
"We are hopeful that the successful conclusion of this agreement will lead to progress on the remaining foundational agreements and allow greater interoperability in our militaries, so that we can go from joint exercises to coordinated operations in the Indian Ocean," she said on Tuesday.
Modi is coming to the US on the invitation of US President Barack Obama for a meeting at the White House on June 7. He has also been invited by House Speaker Paul Ryan to address a joint session of the Congress.
"We have already strengthened our security cooperation in a number of key fronts and certainly (Defense) Secretary Carter's visit earlier this year was key in advancing many of those things," Biswal said in response to a question from Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We are looking at what additional areas we can engage in to deepen that cooperation. We just launched the maritime security dialogue. We have undertaken a great a deal of activities in terms of co-production and co-development of various next generation technologies. We are looking to see if there are additional things that we can conclude during the Prime Minister's visit," Biswal said.
In recent years, the US has become one of India's largest defence suppliers, totalling nearly $14 billion and up from less than $300 million eight years ago.