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Historic opportunity to deepen ties and solidify India-US relationship, says Pentagon Commander

WASHINGTON (PTI):  A top American commander on Tuesday told lawmakers that the current state of US-India relations presents a historic opportunity to deepen bilateral defence ties and solidify what he described as the defining partnership of the 21st century'.

The US and Indian navies are now securely sharing information, and India has substantially increased its acquisition of US defence equipment, Admiral Philips Davidson, Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee here during a Congressional hearing.

The United States strongly supports India's establishment of an information fusion centre focusing on maritime domain awareness, which will improve maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region and Bay of Bengal, he said.

The two countries, he said, concluded several agreements, including the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018, which has greatly enhanced information sharing and interoperability.

The Industrial Security Annex (ISA), signed in December 2019 allows for the transfer of technologies in support of defence production while the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) allows sharing of unclassified geospatial information. The two countries also signed in October 2020 an agreement on Navy-to-Navy Information Sharing.

"Defence sales are at an all-time high with India operating US-sourced platforms such as P-8s, C-130Js, C-17s, AH-64s, CH-47s, Precision Guided-Excalibur Munitions, and M777 howitzers," he told lawmakers adding that in February, India agreed to acquire Apache and MH-60R multi-mission helicopters worth USD3.1 billion and is considering other US systems.

USINDOPACOM defines the security relationship with India as a strategic imperative, Davidson said.

"We expect substantial progress on interoperability and information sharing, service-level and joint military-to-military cooperation and exercises like TIGER TRIUMPH and MALABAR, and an increase in quadrilateral collaboration between India, Australia, Japan, and the United States as the relationship continues to mature, he said.

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