U. S. defense secretary visits India on mission to draw militaries closer

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 1:23 PM

S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter began a three-day visit to India on Sunday, seeking to advance a relatively new defense relationship with a country WA sees as a counterweight to the growing power of China.

U. S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter began a three-day visit to India on Sunday, seeking to advance a relatively new defense relationship with a country WA sees as a counterweight to the growing power of China.

In a sign of the importance Carter places on improving defense ties with India, the visit is his second in less than a year, and it kicks off in Goa, the W coast residence state of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

For India, closer U. S. defense ties would bring greater access to American technology, and it too has been alarmed by China'south naval forays in the Indian Ocean. But India has been historically wary of drawing too near to any one country.

"India'south very reluctant to be seen as too close to the United States, but the Pentagon is very bullish on this relationship," said Shane Mason, a research associate at the Stimson Middle in Washington.

It's also a favored initiative of Carter, who established a special cell within the Pentagon latest year to promote cooperation with India.

"There'south number question about where the United States-India relationship is going," Carter said on Friday, at a speak at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "We can control and influence the pace, and I wish to do that."

The U. S. military has made clear it'd love to do more with India, particularly in countering China'south moves.

Latest month, Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U. S. Pacific Command, said the United States wanted to widen the naval exercises it held with India each year into joint operations across the Asia-Pacific.

But India, which has never carried out joint patrols with another country, said there were number such plans.

"The Indians are being concerned because it'south their neighborhood," said a U. S. congressional source familiar with U. S.-India military discussions. "It'south been a long-standing Indian policy to deal with China on a bilateral basis."

DEFENSE MANUFACTURING U. S. defense manufacturers hope closer ties will boost their own prospects in India, which is one of the world'south biggest defense spenders but still has major gaps in its military capabilities.

India has been looking to restore its aging air force and latest week Lockheed Martin and Boeing pitched their fighter planes to its defense ministry.

In a statement, Boeing said it was in talks with India about the opportunity of making F/A-18E/Fahrenheit Super Hornet aircraft in India.

A Lockheed spokesman said the company also took portion in talks latest week between India and the United States on fighter jet production opportunities.

Separately, the two countries are negotiating India'south request for forty Predator surveillance drones, executive said, a possible first step towards acquiring the armed version of the unmanned aircraft.

But deeper security cooperation has been tricky, because India has for more than ten years demurred at signing three "foundational" defense agreements that'd streamline military interactions.

India is concerned that the pacts, including the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) that allows the two militaries to access each other'south bases, could draw it into an undeclared military alliance with the United States.

Ahead of Carter'south trip, an Indian defense source said both sides were anxious to conclude the negotiations on the LSA.

"They're actually quite prosaic agreements," said Benjamin Schwartz, until latest year the India country director at the Pentagon.

Nonetheless, signing them "would indicate that the Indian government is more willing to work with the U. S., even if it means that they're going to get some political heat," said Schwartz.

(Extra reporting by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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