News from the Arab Press

India & the US: New Prospects for Military Cooperation

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

October 9, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (L) during an official ceremony at Ben-Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv on July 4, 2017. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Al-Itihad, UAE, October 7

The three-day visit by US Defense Secretary James Mattis to India was the first to New Delhi by a senior official in the Trump administration. The main objective was to outline a joint defense strategy and to enhance overall cooperation between the two countries. Although no official statements were made following the visit, numerous sources reported that Mattis held a series of comprehensive talks with India’s newly appointed Defense Minister Nirmala Seetharaman, aimed at deepening coordination in the Indian-Pacific naval arena, as well as enhancing India’s role in targeting terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan. Since stepping into office, President Donald Trump has been determined to boost New Delhi’s involvement in the fight against terror, particularly in Afghanistan. This reflects a dramatic departure from the policy of then-U.S. president Barack Obama, who shunned India’s involvement in this effort out of fear of upsetting Pakistan. Although the Obama administration encouraged New Delhi to support Kabul economically, he always refrained from providing any kind of military assistance to India. Trump, however, has already wooed India to help accomplish the American mission and signed several military aid agreements with the Indian government. India has already spent more than $3 billion on civilian infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, ranging from the construction of a new parliament to the building of roads and schools—a move which has been welcomed by locals. Although Washington is not yet a full ally to India, the two nations are increasingly working together on sensitive issues, especially in the shadow of China’s growing role in the region. Defense cooperation is only one aspect of this new relationship, which will likely grow increasingly intimate in the months to come. This new era of friendship may very well turn New Delhi into the U.S.’ closest ally in years ahead.   – Zakar al-Rahman

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