The US military is reaching out to India for possible cooperation on counterbalancing China’s rise as a maritime power.
According to Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, Washington is looking to garner more support from India and other regional players to continue the so-called freedom-of-navigation patrols in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
“In the not too distant future, American and Indian Navy vessels steaming together will become a common and welcome sight throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific waters,” he said, “as we work together to maintain freedom of the seas for all nations,” the Washington Postreported Sunday.
India holds more military exercises with America than with any other country, and the two allies are working to expand their cooperation.
Despite ruling out joint patrols with the US, in April New Delhi agreed to allow Washington to use its military bases in exchange for weapons technology to help India narrow the gap with China.
The two sides indicated that their navies will hold talks on anti-submarine warfare (ASW), an area of sensitive military technology and joint tactics that only allies share.
China’s naval activity in the Indian Ocean has brought the two once-distant militaries closer than ever before.
Indian navy officials have reported sighting Chinese submarines four times every three months on an average basis, with most of the sightings being registered near India’s Andamans and Nicobar islands in the vicinity of the Malacca Straits.
More than 80 percent of China’s fuel supplies pass through this entry to the South China Sea.
As part of their new naval cooperation against Chinese subs, America and India are flying the new version of the US P-8 spy aircraft, which is the Pentagon’s most effective submarine hunting weapon.
The P-8 or Poseidon is capable of using torpedoes, depth charges, SLAM-ER missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and other weapons.
US-India military ties experienced a near-blackout after India performed a series of nuclear tests in 1998. Relations improved after then President Bill Clinton visited India in 2000. The countries reached a historic agreement on nuclear cooperation in 2008.
The mutual cooperation, however, is expected to get a boost as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due in the US on Monday to meet President Barack Obama and address Congress.