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Modernising scope of military engagements with India: Pentagon on 2023 highlights with Indo-Pacific partners


A file photo of multi-national 'MALABAR' military drill.

NEW DELHI (PTI): The US has modernised the scope of its military engagements with India and bolstered its defence modernisation plans, the Pentagon has said, as it highlighted the “groundbreaking” achievements and cooperation with allies in 2023 aimed towards peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Amidst China's aggressive moves in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said it is deploying cutting-edge military capabilities right now, developing the capabilities needed to maintain deterrence in the Indo-Pacific in the future.

“Throughout 2023, the United States has worked alongside allies and partners to deliver groundbreaking achievements for peace, stability, and deterrence in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the US Department of Defence (DoD) said in a fact sheet on a “Decisive Year” in the Indo-Pacific region.

Citing individual country examples, the department said it is also supporting allies and partners as they invest in their own capabilities by “bolstering India's defence modernisation plans, including by advancing the priorities outlined in the Roadmap for US-India Defence Industrial Cooperation to co-produce fighter jet engines and Stryker armoured vehicles, as well as launching the India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) to promote partnerships between US and Indian researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors.”

The Defence Department fact sheet noted that the US is joining together with Indo-Pacific allies and partners in ways that strengthen peace and security across the region, including by operating together like never-before. Key examples include “India, modernising the scope (of) our military engagements including by incorporating advanced fighter aircraft and strategic bombers in our exercises, which strengthens interoperability and highlights shared efforts to promote stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.”

The US, India and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.

China is engaged in hotly-contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.

Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.

The US DoD also cited the example of exercise MALABAR with India, Japan, and Australia, which was hosted in Australia for the first time in 2023, “which facilitated high-end training in anti-submarine exercises, communications, and air defence.”

The fact sheet quoted United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin as saying “In this decisive decade, 2023 will be remembered as a decisive year for implementing US defence strategy in Asia.”

The fact sheet highlighted other partnerships with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, including with nations such as Japan, Australia, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia.

It noted that in 2023, Secretary Austin made four trips to the Indo-Pacific and visited eight countries in the region.

This year, Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to New Delhi in November for the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.

In June, Austin had travelled to India to “reinforce the major defence partnership and advance cooperation in critical domains” ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official state visit to Washington.

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