India, US finalise major defence accord

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NEW DELHI:Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and United States Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, on Thursday, finalised India’s designation as a Major Defence Partner of the United States.

This was announced in the India-US joint statement on Carter’s visit to New Delhi, according to The Indian Express. The designation as a Major Defence Partner, the joint statement noted, is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology-sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future.

During India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Washington in June, the United States said it recognised India as a Major Defence Partner. The joint statement issued then had acknowledged the US-India defence relationship as a possible ‘anchor of stability’, with the United States saying it will “continue to work towards facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners”.

Parrikar had given a non-paper to Carter during his visit to Pentagon in August, following which the two sides had negotiated the exact contours of this designation. There were differences between the two sides about the level of technology transfer and cooperation permissible under the Major Defence Partner status.

India was seeking benefits granted to the closest allies of the US, such as Australia and the UK which the Pentagon was hesitant to concede. On Thursday, the two sides did not specify details of the benefits that will accrue to India under the designation.

India’s Major Defence Partner status has, however, been made a part of the India Amendment in the National Defence Authorisation Act, 2017 (NDAA), approved by the US Congress to allocate funds annually to the US military. This Bill is expected to be passed shortly which will put a formal, official stamp on India’s status.

Meanwhile, the United States will ‘remain committed’  to Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday, amid questions about what President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy will mean for the country as it faces a renewed Taliban insurgency.

Carter arrived in the Afghan capital earlier on an unannounced visit and met US troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “America is, and will remain, committed to a sovereign and secure Afghanistan,” Carter told a news conference with Ghani.

Speaking with reporters at Bagram air base north of Kabul later on Friday, General John Nicholson, the commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, said it was important for the United States to remain committed in Afghanistan.

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