A Round Table discussion on “Indo-U.S. Military Cooperation in the context of South Asian Security and the Way Ahead” was held on 17 May 2012. The guest speaker, on the occasion was Dr. Amer Latif, currently visiting fellow with the Wadhwani Chair for U.S.-India Policy Studies at CSIS. Previously, he was director for South Asian affairs in the Office of South and Southeast Asian Affairs in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (OSDP).
Dr. Latif noted that the robust engagement with the Indian and U.S. militaries was only deepening, yet there is a need to take this out of the joint-exercises and operability context, to a larger strategic aim. The United States he averred was driven by the pivotal nature of engagement in the Indo-Pacific region arising from trade, energy and security compulsions. Further, U.S. withdrawal in the Afghanistan context is not a definite, rather there is going to be a decisive U.S. engagement, in West Asia too. The U.S. is reviving its old relations with Japan, Singapore, Australia, Philippines and others in the Indo-Pacific, even in the wake of assertive cross-regional engagement between the states.
The United States and India are natural partners and hold common views on the rise of China, aftermath of Afghanistan post -2014 and its stability equally is the issue of stability in Pakistan, concerns over nuclear weapons in Iran, maritime security and terrorism. The 2012 US Defence Strategic Guidance is significant to the extent of US support to India’s ability in upholding regional stability, even so not mentioning its long-time allies in the region like Japan, South Korea, and Australia etc.
Dr. Latif brought out some key challenges in moving forward in the Indian and U.S relationship from; (i) strategic challenge marked by a parallel set of interests - there is agreement on policy outcomes but disagreement on policy implementations, (ii) Political – a trust deficit by India on issues of technology transfer, drawdown from Afghanistan and U.S as a credible partner. Arms sales to both Pakistan and India seem incongruous in this sense. (iii) There is a significant bureaucratic challenge in attempting to communicate effectively. Some level of transparency and predictability can help produce informed decisions. (iv) The communications challenge in articulating to both the Indian and US constituencies the values of a deepening engagement.
Finally, he noted that there is a semblance of understanding domestic compulsions in shaping the future course of the bilateral engagement ranging from domestic political factors to economic crises and alternate foreign policy concerns.
The discussion was lively and focused on the future course of ties between India and the U.S. The Director, Vivekananda International Foundation, Ajit Doval brought the event to a close remarking that it would be expedient to conduct a joint study on prospective military-industry cooperation in India to include the possibility of joint projects with the US relating to defence production.