WASHINGTON — The U.S. should provide more weapons and military technology to India to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific area and mitigate China’s efforts to increase its power in the region, several former ambassadors said Tuesday.
“There’s an inner core of ideological similarities between our countries, and when you look at the direction of world affairs I think the U.S. and India can clearly provide a sense of direction to a lot of countries in the region through the power of example,“ said former Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress.
The center issued a task force report Tuesday by former top officials from India and U.S. Indian relations experts that calls for cooperation in five areas: economic opportunities, clean energy, defense, democratic institutions and strengthened cultural ties.
Former U.S. ambassador to India Richard Verma called the U.S.-India relationship “the true lynchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”.
The task force report recommends that the U.S. develop New Delhi’s defense capabilities as a major security contributor in the Indo-Pacific and create a U.S.-India humanitarian assistance plan for future disaster relief missions in the Indian Ocean region.
Verma said that the report’s defense recommendations would help create a crucial degree of stability in the region. He pointed to India’s looming threats from competitors like Pakistan and China as examples of why such a partnership would ensure continuous support for both countries, which have not worked as direct allies in the past.
“The next chapter of treating India as a major defense partner should be leaning into this relationship and saying ‘it’s ok to talk about giving India a strategic advantage in the Indo-Pacific,’” Verma said. “Giving India the capabilities it needs to prevail in contested domains in the air, in sea and in cyberspace would not only be in India’s favor, but also America’s.”
President Donald Trump has maintained a positive relationship with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi thus far, primarily due to his hardline stance on relations with Pakistan and China.
Kartikeya Singh, deputy director of the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic International Studies, said in a telephone interview that the stage has already been set under the Trump administration for mutually beneficial strategic ties.
“For India, the advantage of a defense partnership would be having a larger role in engagement with a variety of actors that have interests in the Indian Ocean,” Singh said. “For the U.S., I think there’s an advantage in having a strong partner like India in this geostrategic location that can be mindful of China’s ambitions in the region.”
According to Rao, the increasing polarity in the Indo-Pacific region is cause for concern, and a U.S.-India partnership to combat these issues and preserve the shared values of the two democracies would be the next logical step.
“What we’ve tried to underline in this report is the tremendous potential of this defense relationship,” she said. “There’s much to celebrate in how far we’ve progressed, but we must continue to build on our shared strategic interests.”