U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar agreed to strengthen their cooperation on maritime security, as concerns grow in Washington over Beijing's growing military ambitions.
Carter is in New Delhi to bolster a strategic relationship Washington considers crucial in the face of what it sees as China's rising assertiveness, particularly in the South China Sea.
He and Parrikar visited the Indian Naval Base in Karwar and the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. They also visited the USS Blue Ridge which was conducting a port call in Goa during the secretary’s visit.
“Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in the area of maritime security,” said a joint statement issued after Carter held talks with Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in the area of maritime security. In this context, they reaffirmed their desire to expeditiously conclude a “white shipping” technical arrangement to improve data sharing on commercial shipping traffic.
They agreed to commence navy-to-navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare. They also agreed to launch a bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue, co-chaired by officials at the joint secretary/assistant secretary-level of the Indian Ministries of Defence and External Affairs and the U.S. Departments of Defense and State.
The two sides “reaffirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, including in the South China Sea,” read the statement.
"Both sides acknowledged India's participation in the Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) multilateral naval exercise in 2016 as well as participation by the Indian Air Force in the multilateral Red Flag exercise in April-May in Alaska and U.S. participation in the international fleet review of the Indian Navy at Visakhapatnam in February," the statement added.
Washington has increasingly turned its focus to Asia as it tries to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, and is eager for India to play a greater role in its network of regional defence alliances.