US' relationship with India is growing stronger, but is not without challenges as New Delhi in its effort to maintain its strategic autonomy is seeking to balance its associations with many other nations as well, a top Pentagon commander told lawmakers.
"The relationship with India is strong and growing stronger. It's not without its challenges," US Pacific Commander (PACOM) Admiral Robert Willard, said responding questions at a Congressional hearing.
"We don't have a long history between the countries, as you know. We went through a Cold War without much of a relationship at all. Following the nuclear tests in the late 1990s, we suspended relations government to government. So we've really only been acquainted with India in the past decade," Willard said.
"And mil-to-mil, we began at a pretty nascent stage and have progressed to the point that today we exercise with India across all the services. It's one of the most significant security assistance programmes that we have in the Asia-Pacific Theater right now," he said.
He said the US and India have made great progress in bilateral ties.
"At the same time, they pride themselves in what they term strategic autonomy, kind of, a non-alliance philosophy. And as a consequence of that, we are challenged in the relationship by virtue of India seeking to balance its associations with many other nations as well.
"We're challenged in our relationship with Pakistan as a consequence of the animosity that has existed historically between India, Pakistan," Willard explained giving reasons for challenges in the US-India relationships.
"And India is in a very challenged part of the world, as we all know, with Afghanistan close by; Pakistan as a neighbour; the Kashmir issue, which has persisted for a long time; and a disputed border between India, China.
"So there are a lot of issues on the plate, and we're seeking to continue to dialogue with India -- terror being one of them -- and try to improve the relationships where we can," he said.
In his written testimony, Willard said pursuing a US-India strategic partnership through a close alignment of respective regional security interests is a priority for the US Department of Defence and USPACOM