US, India Militaries to Coordinate

US, India Militaries to Coordinate

NEW DELHI (AP) -- The U.S. and India have reached a preliminary agreement that will make it easier for the two countries' militaries to work together in disasters or other emergencies, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.

During a joint news conference with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, Carter said the two countries have "agreed in principle" on the logistical agreement, and it could be finalized in weeks. Parrikar estimated it will take about a month.

Carter said the two countries expect to soon reach a second pact to improve the sharing of information on commercial shipping, in a move to beef up security on the seas.

U.S. defense officials said the first agreement will help the two militaries coordinate better, including in exercises, and also allow the U.S. to more easily sell fuel or provide spare parts to the Indians.

They said the Indians had a number of questions about what they may be obligated to do as a result of the agreement, including whether it would give U.S. forces access to Indian military bases. They were assured it would not do that.

Carter said that while sharing logistical assets may seem like it should be automatic, it isn't.

Although some of that can be done now, through what officials called "workarounds," the agreement will help expedite such transactions.

While officials touted the signing as an important step, there was less progress on other programs the U.S. would like to partner with India on.

Those would include cooperation on the development of jet engines and aircraft carrier technologies.

According to the defense officials, discussions are continuing on how the two countries may be able to collaborate as India begins development of its next aircraft carrier.

The officials were not authorized to discuss details of the talks, so they spoke on condition of anonymity.

Carter on Monday noted that India wants to move to a flat-deck design of its aircraft carriers, he said the U.S. is "more than willing" to share its catapult technology used to launch fighter jets off carriers.

Defense officials said that if India begins using the catapult technology, then there could be opportunities for India to buy U.S.-made FA-18 fighter jets or other aircraft that use that launching system.

Last June, during a visit to India, Carter and Parrikar signed a defense agreement, as part of a broader U.S. effort to improve what has been a rocky relationship between the two countries.

And he announced two $1 million joint research ventures. While small, defense officials say the two-year projects will set the groundwork for future collaboration.

On Tuesday, Carter announced that the two countries have now agreed to start two more co-development projects -- one for digital, helmet-mounted displays and one for biological detection system.

Four other projects, valued at about $44 million, are being finalized and would involve high energy lasers, target detection, small drones and traumatic brain injury.

Last year, Carter acknowledged the difficulties on both sides in breaking through the red tape to achieve more development cooperation, but said things are moving forward.

This week, officials said they believe that with one agreement achieved, it will be easier to work through others.

But the U.S. must still grapple with a significant degree of suspicion within the government and among the Indian people who see America's relationship with Pakistan as a threat.

Carter Tuesday got repeated questions from Indian reporters on why the U.S. sold fighter jets to Pakistan, saying the aircraft could be used against India.

Carter said the two relationships are separate, and the U.S. has no interest in seeing any conflict between India and Pakistan.

He said the U.S. effort with Pakistan is aimed at combating terrorism and the fighter jets are used for operations against militants in the FATA region. The U.S., he said, approves of Pakistan's effort to go after militants there.

Asked his view of the sales, Parrikar said he is aware of the issue and has expressed his concerns.

U.S. leaders have long hoped to partner more with India as it modernizes its military, but Indian leaders have been more interested in co-development opportunities than in simply buying American-made weapons.

India has also been courting a strong business relationship with China. Beijing sees India as a market for its increasingly high-tech goods, from high-speed trains to nuclear power plants, while India wants to attract Chinese investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.