External Affairs

India Influential, Powerful Player in Asia Pacific, Says US Defence Secretary

Ashton Carter. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ashton Carter. Source: Wikimedia Commons

New York: India is a “very influential and powerful player” in the Asia Pacific and is going to play an ever increasingly role in the region, US defence secretary Ashton Carter said on the eve of his visit to India, during which “exciting new projects” will be discussed to boost Indo-US strategic ties.

“India is already a very influential and powerful force in the whole Indo-Asia Pacific region, starting with the Indian Ocean,” Carter told PTI.

He said that his three-day trip to India, beginning tomorrow, would be an important step in the implementation of some of the key decisions taken by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last two years.

However, Carter remained tight-lipped on the decisions to be taken during the trip that will take him to Goa and New Delhi. “We will talk about exciting new projects, the details of which I cannot get into this afternoon,” the defence secretary told a New York audience.

The Obama administration’s “Asia Pacific rebalance” and Modi government’s “Act East Asia” is what Carter described as a “strategic handshake” between the two largest democracies of the world.

“Obviously it [India] is going to play an ever-increasing role, a very positive role because of the values it stands (for).., championing of a co-operative approach to security,” Carter said in response to a question.

The defence secretary acknowledged that India’s “influence stems all the way around Southeast Asia and into East Asia”, and also referred to the close relationship it now has with Japan in the Asia Pacific region.

Carter, who has played a key role in this new phase of India-US defence relationship which started during his previous post at the Pentagon, believes that the India-US relationship is destined to be one of the most significant partnerships of the 21st century.

And his second visit to India in less than a year is aimed to realise that, he said. “[The trip is] to take some very important new steps and to implement what the president and the prime minister agreed on, and the [defence] framework [agreement] that I signed with (Indian Defense) Minister (Manohar) Parrikar last year,” Carter said.

Carter said the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), which was started in 2012 during his stint at the Pentagon, “grasps hands” with Modi’s “Make in India” campaign to expand the nation’s industrial and defence base.

“In the area of the DTTI, in the area of joint military exercises and activities, we would have the opportunity in a very tangible and significant way to signify our co-operation,” he said.