India and the United States on Thursday vowed to expand the bilateral defence cooperation as outgoing American Defence Secretary Ashton Carter met his counterpart Manohar Parrikar here for the record breaking seventh time and termed New Delhi as a “major defence partner”.
“Thank you my friend,” Carter told Parrikar as both met at the South Block here.
Carter said that this is the seventh meeting that he was having meeting with Parrikar. “He is the Defence Minister with whom I have met for the maximum number of times,” he said emphasising the importance that US puts on its ties with India.
During the meeting, which was more of a thanksgiving one, Carter said, “Today our defence relationship takes a major step as we designate India as a major defence partner.
A powerful US Congressional conference committee had on November 30 asked Carter and the Secretary of State to take steps necessary to recognise India as America’s major defence partner in a bid to strengthen bilateral security cooperation.
The provision mentioned in the voluminous Congressional conference report, running into more than 3,000 pages, on USD 618 billion National Defence Authorisation Bill (NDAA), also asked the Defence Secretary and the Secretary of State for an assessment of the extent to which India possesses capabilities to support and carry out military operations of mutual interest of the two countries.
It now needs to be formally passed by the two chambers of the Congress –the House of Representatives and Senate –before US President Barack Obama can sign it into law.
Meanwhile, Parrikar said he appreciated Carter’s strong commitment to defence partnership.