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Military Cooperation and Coordination Dominates India-U.S. Ministerial Dialogue

Of all the areas in which U.S.-India cooperation could benefit both nations and all of humanity, the Biden and Modi administrations have chosen to integrate their militaries and respective military-industrial complexes as the primary basis on which to mend years of frictions between the two countries. That proposition—meant as a clear counter to China’s influence—is what is most evident in the Joint Statement on the Fifth Annual India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue issued after Secretary of State Tony Blinken, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met in New Delhi Nov. 10.

Yes, the statement “highlighted progress in various areas of bilateral cooperation,” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote, including defense, semiconductors, emerging technology, space, and health. But as Defense Minister Singh acknowledged before the closed-door talks got underway, “defense remains one of the most important pillars of our bilateral relationship.” Austin spoke of “impressive gains in building our major defense partnership…. We’re integrating our industrial bases, strengthening our interoperability, and sharing cutting-edge technology. The scope of our cooperation is vast.”

The cooperation is packaged around geopolitical goals—a fact which will not be lost on China, which has been following developments on this front closely. Singh spoke of “a growing convergence of strategic interests,” describing India and the U.S. as being “closer than ever before … [in] a partnership … critical for ensuring a free, open, and a rules-bound Indo-Pacific region.” Blinken likewise spoke of “promoting a free and open, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific,” declaring U.S.-Indian defense cooperation to be “a key pillar” of the promotion of “the rules-based order.”

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