During his visit to India in early December, US secretary of defence, Ashton Carter issued a joint statement with his counterpart Manohar Parrrikar, designating India as a “major defence partner” of the US. According to the statement, “The designation as a 'Major Defence Partner' is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States' closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future."
The designation of India as a “major defence partner” (MDP) implies exceptional and sweeping relaxation of defence export regulations for India, which have the potential to make the US India's biggest defence partner, according to defence analysts. It will allow India greater access to military technology from the US, without the need for licencing. It may be noted that until now, apart from its NATO allies, the US has had such a partnership with S.Korea, Japan and Australia. Now India is set to enter this exclusive club of US defence allies.
In June this year, the US officially recognised India as an MDP after a meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington DC. The joint statement issued after the Carter-Parrikar talks in early December is another public declaration of the growing India-US defence relationship. For the US, this is expected to translate into billions of dollars of defence contracts from India.
This follows the signing of the LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement), between India and the US a few months ago, which allows US armed forces access to India military bases during their engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. The US defence secretary also spoke of increasing the pace of joint military exercises with India including other US allies in the region. “ . . . those exercises are not just US-India exercises, but US-India-Japan exercises, US-India-Australia exercises, things that show spreading of that (rebalance to Asia-Pacific) network I have been talking about”, he said. The Malabar naval exercises this year included Japan together with US and India, while efforts are on to include Australia in the next round of exercises.
Senior officials involved in the Carter-Parrikar talks are reported to have said that the US and India are likely to shortly announce a "signature, big-ticket" project that will symbolise the finalisation of India as a "major defence partner". The project would be under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that was launched by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama in 2012. It has now been expanded to include seven joint working groups on jet engine technology, aircraft technology, naval systems, air systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, chemical-biological protection systems and other systems.
The India-US joint statement pointed to the signing of the LEMOA and the DTTI as the highlights of the defence relationship. Since 2008, US-India defence trade has increased from about $1 billion to more than $15 billion. India has procured 13 Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules aircraft, 10 C-17 Globemasters and 12 P-8 Poseidon from Boeing. It has also contracted 22 AH 64 Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Earlier this month India had contracted a deal worth $732 million dollars for 145 M777 ultralight howitzers from BAE Land Systems.
The designation of India as a major defence partner of US represents another step in the rapidly growing close defence and strategic partnership between the US imperialists and the Indian bourgeoisie. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of the US talks of ‘mechanisms to verify the security of defence articles, defence services, and related technology, such as appropriate cyber security and end user monitoring agreements’ for items and technologies sold to India. It explicitly highlights enhanced “defense and security cooperation with India in order to advance United States interests in South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions”. In other words, it signifies closer alignment of the Indian state and its policies and practices with the strategic interests, the hegemonic and warmongering moves of the US imperialists, the aggressive drive of US imperialism to establish its domination over Asia and the Pacific region. The Indian bourgeoisie hopes, through this alliance, to advance its own imperialist aspirations.
CGPI condemns the growing India-US military and strategic ties as a grave threat to peace and security in the region and calls upon the working class and people to unitedly oppose this strengthening collaboration of our rulers with the most bloodthirsty and rapacious power in the world.