Washington: The US wants to deepen military relationship and expand bilateral trade with New Delhi which will ease the sale of the F-16 and F-18 jets to India and will also help create a defence technology partnership, a top American diplomat has said.
“This is a dynamic relationship with really” hasn’t “begun to see the potential yet,” Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Alice G Wells, told reporters here.
Wells accompanied Tillerson on his just concluded trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
“This was an extremely friendly, very wide-ranging dialogue on how we can partner together on the strategic relationship that we think is going to define the rest of the 21st century,” Wells said.
While there was a bilateral component to the visit, but they talked about how the two countries with shared values a respect for democracy, transparency, freedom of navigation, for economic development can inculcate these values in the broader Indo-Pacific region, working with important partners like Japan and Australia.
“Tillerson’s visit to Gandhi Smriti was very moving, and again, really was a touchstone for what unites that this relationship is very much one built on values,” she said adding that the Secretary of State laid out a lot of ambitions for the relationship.
“We want to build on the June visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the President, and just say, How do we take this relationship to the next level?,” she said.
“Obviously, we’d like to deepen the military-to-military cooperation that has moved very quickly; over the last decade we’ve gone from zero in defence sales to 15 billion in defence sales,” Wells said.
“There are important defence agreements that the two countries can move forward on that will make it easier for the US to share classified data and that will facilitate sales like the F-16 or the F-18 and will help create a defence technology partnership, which is what India is seeking, but which will also create jobs for Americans at home,” she said.
“We’d like to expand the bilateral trade and investment dimension of the relationship. We have about UD 115 billion in trade, USD 40 billion in bilateral investment,” she said noting that this week they have two important meetings going on, the Trade Policy Forum and the Commercial Dialogue.
US sees this as a two-way street. In November Mahindra is opening an auto plant in Michigan.
“We’ve seen purchases of Boeing aircraft, all of which produce, again, thousands of jobs for American citizens,” Wells said.
Later in November the Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be attended by Ivanka Trump, which is going to bring together 1,300 entrepreneurs and investors, really demonstrate the entrepreneurial spirit of the relationship.
“During his India visit, Tillerson focused on how they can promote regional stability. In the South Asia strategy, we’ve given an important role to India on helping to stabilize Afghanistan economically and to build its human resource capacity,” Wells said.
“Since 2001, India has invested USD 2 billion in Afghanistan. They’ve pledged another USD 1 billion by 2020. India has projects in 31 provinces and all of these projects have been very well received. They’re constructive, and I think it’s demonstrated that India is an important and valuable partner,” she said.
“At the same time, of course, we’ve made it clear to everyone that we would never tolerate anyone’s soil being used against the other,” she added.
Finally, on the fight against terrorism, building on the joint designation we did of Harakat ul-Mujahidin during Prime Minister Modi’s visit, we’re looking forward to working with the the Indians on identifying additional designations that we should pursue together,” Wells said.