With India emerging as a key player globally, a top American military official considers a strong positive relationship with New Delhi essential to achieving long-term goals like reduced tensions with Pakistan and countering extremism.
"India's growing economic, diplomatic and military power makes them a key player not only in South and Central Asia but globally as well," said Admiral Robert Willard, in his confirmation hearing for Commander of US Pacific Command on Thursday.
"A strong positive relationship with India is essential to achieving long-term US goals such as regional security and stability, reduced tensions with Pakistan, and wide-ranging cooperation to counter extremism," he told the Senate Armed Services committee.
"We should continue to expand our military-to-military engagement to include multi-lateral partners and increasingly complex exercise scenarios that help to advance India's military capabilities," the admiral said in written responses to questions from the panel.
"In coordination with US Central Command, we will develop confidence building measures and events that help reduce India-Pakistan tension and support the greater US-Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy," he said.
The admiral said America's military-to-military relations with India are very positive and expanding. Both the countries view military-to-military relationship as the foundation of Indo-US "strategic partnership", he said.
"Due to the wide range of shared security interests, accompanied with the increasing complexity and maturity of our engagement, this relationship will continue to expand," Willard said.
Asked how US engagement in Afghanistan-Pakistan affects its relationship with New Delhi, the admiral said India has voiced strong support for the US objective to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but had also expressed concern that US might sacrifice the strong bilateral relationship for short term gains in the region.
"While they voice their support, they also voice their concern that the US might sacrifice our strong bilateral relationship and its long-term benefits for the sake of an immediate Afghanistan-Pakistan campaign strategy," he observed.
"Our best course of action to allay Indian concerns while garnishing their overall support for our ongoing regional efforts is to continue to strengthen our bilateral relationship with India across all agencies of government, including military-to-military," Willard said.
Asked about the relationship between armed groups conducting terrorist attacks in India with those in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the admiral said: "Leaders of violent extremist groups such as AI Qaida, Jaish-e-Mahammad, and Lashkrar-e-Taiba leverage personal relationships forged during the I980s when many of these leaders joined together to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan."