US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter arrives in India. Expected to Meet PM and Parrikar on Final Overseas Trip.

US Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, has arrived in India as part of his last farewell overseas trip. The outgoing defense secretary arrived in New Delhi last night and was received by a high-level Indian delegation and US Ambassador Richard Verma.

Carter today is expected to call upon PM Narendra Modi, his counterpart Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar besides senior MoD officials. This is for the first time that an outgoing Defense Secretary has included India in his final overseas trip.

This stands as a testimony to the surging Indo-US relationship which has reached its zenith particularly in the past decade. Carter is expected depart from India later tonight to Bahrain where he will be meeting US forces.

No major deals are expected to be concluded during the visit and it is being termed as a “thanksgiving” occasion by senior diplomats. However, several ongoing projects under the DTTI are expected to be reviewed when Carter meets Parrikar in the South Block.

The visit comes at a time when both the houses of US Congress – the Senate and the house of Representatives – have jointly agreed to amend a major bill, that will entitle India as a ‘major defence partner’ of US. India following this will be brought in par with US’s closest allies — NATO and Israel when it comes to technology sharing.

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India – US Relations Closest its Ever Been: Carter

Ashton Carter has been a strong supporter for Indian causes since his induction to the Pentagon and has batted for renewing Indo – US relations. Carter has viewed India as the lone power that can check the Chinese fray into the Indian Ocean. Before his departure to India, Carter addressing a gathering said “The US-India defence relationship is the closest it’s ever been. Through our strategic handshake–with America reaching west in the rebalance, and India reaching east in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls his ‘Act East policy’– our two nations are exercising together by air, land, and sea like never before,”

Speaking in detail about the maturing relations he said “We also have a technological handshake–as the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, or DTTI, grasps hands with Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India campaign–that’s helping our countries move toward more diverse co-development and co-production of weapons systems.”

Carter Expected to Make Renewed Push for CISMOA and BECA

India and USA in August this year had signed the much debated LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) – an Indian specific version of the LSA (Logistics Sharing Agreement), which US has signed with over 80 countries.

LEMOA has provided a basic framework for boosting logistics and infrastructure framework and this will allow Indian and US forces the interoperability levels.

India is yet to sign two other fundamental agreements – CISMOA (Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) and the BECA (Basis Exchange and Co-operation Agreement). US terms these agreements are crucial to boost technology sharing under DTTI.

India has multiple reservations when it comes to CISMOA and BECA, as it will mandate India to allow US forces and machinery to work out of Indian bases. Carter will make due efforts to address Indian reservations and make renewed efforts to see through the agreements at the earliest.

Under the Trump presidency, Carter will be replaced by James Mattis, a four star Marine Corps General who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Carter’s current and final visit will set the bedrock for the future of the Indo-US relations.

© Karthik Kakoor

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