Washington: The navies of India and the US have a shared interest in providing security that guarantees a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, US Navy chief Admiral John Richardson has said, amid China flexing its muscles in the region.
Admiral Richardson made the remarks after his meeting with Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, who is on a five-day visit to America. It was Richardson's fourth meeting with Lanba. They had last met at the IMDEX Asia defence conference in Singapore in May 2017. "We have a shared interest that our navies provide the security that underwrites a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region," Richardson said after his meeting with Admiral Lanba.
"I've met often with Admiral Lanba and our discussions center on a naval partnership built on respect and trust," he said yesterday.
The two Admirals met with US Secretary of Navy Richard V Spencer and discussed ways to improve interoperability to include additional naval exercises and staff talks, said a Pentagon readout of the meeting.
"Naval exercises like Malabar and the Rim-of-the-Pacific are examples of our deepening cooperation and I look forward to continuing to explore opportunities that increase our interoperability," Richardson said.
During his stay in the US, Admiral Lanba will hold extensive talks with the top military brass of the Trump administration to consolidate bilateral naval cooperation, including in the Indo-Pacific region. The US has been pushing for a broader role for India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.
In November last year, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending Quad or quadrilateral corridor to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific region free from Chinese influence.
China, which has been reinforcing its hold on the disputed South China Sea (SCS) with military installations in the shoals and reclaimed islands, claims sovereignty over almost all of it. Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over SCS.
China also claims rights over the disputed islands in East China Sea under the control of Japan. "The relationship between the US Navy and the Indian Navy has never been stronger," said Richardson.
"There has been meaningful progress made in strengthening the cooperation between our two-great democratic and maritime nations. We are exploring every way to expand that partnership even further based on our shared interests," he said.
India was accorded Major Defence Partner status by the US in 2016, bringing New Delhi on par with Washington's closest allies for defence-related trade and technology transfer. The Indian Navy cooperates with the US Navy on several fronts which include operational interactions such as the Malabar naval exercise and exchange of white shipping information.
Warships from both navies have also been regularly visiting each other's ports.