Pentagon has expressed willingness to enhance its co-operation with India in the fields of maritime security and counter-terrorism, especially through special operations engagements.
In a report submitted to the US Congress, Pentagon has identified maritime security and counter-terrorism cooperation as an important pillar of military to military cooperation between the two countries.
"As our robust exercise slate and ongoing operational cooperation demonstrate, some of the most promising US-India defense cooperation takes place in the maritime domain," it said.
"As we look to build on our successes, we will work together to ensure that we actualize the cooperation already agreed upon in the 2006 Indo-US Framework for Maritime Security Cooperation," the report said.
"Deepening maritime security cooperation with India holds great potential over the next five years across a range of issues, including, but not limited to, maritime domain awareness and countering piracy," it said.
On the counter-terrorism front, the United States continues to focus on al Qaeda and other terrorist threats that emanate from South Asia, it said.
For some of these groups, particularly Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), India remains the primary target, the report said.
"LeT’s activities continue to threaten US interests and South Asian regional stability. Therefore, we will continue to follow the guidance of our National Strategy for Counter-terrorism which calls for joining with key partners, like India, to share the burdens of our common security goals," it said.
"In doing so, we will seek to expand counter-terrorism cooperation with India, and our current special operations engagements in the region will continue to focus on the mutually beneficial ways in which we can enhance each other’s capabilities," the Pentagon said.
"In both instances, DoD will work with the State Department and other inter agency colleagues as appropriate to work with India in the emerging Asian regional security architecture and other multilateral forums, such as the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus," the report said.
The Pentagon said it plans to conduct increasingly complex joint and combined exercises with a focus on counter-terrorism, maritime security and HA/DR across all of the Services.
"Additionally, we will work together to convert the skills attained during these exercises into practical cooperation and action," it said.
"As we continue to expand operational coordination in the Indian Ocean, we should continue to seek opportunities to exercise multilaterally with partners in the region," the Pentagon said.
"These habits of cooperation could facilitate timely responses to crises, such as those often triggered in the region by natural disasters," it said.
Observing that India’s capability and capacity to participate in counter-piracy operations has been demonstrated consistently during the annual MALABAR exercise and in its counter piracy operations off its west coast, the Pentagon said the US appreciated India’s deployment of naval vessels to support counter-piracy operations through the SHADE (Shared Awareness and Deconfliction) mechanism.
"We will increasingly seek Indian participation and leadership in external operations or exercises related to interdiction, piracy, and port access," it said.
The United States appreciated India’s continued contribution to the counter-piracy mission in the western Indian Ocean and would support India’s leadership role in regional counter-piracy efforts, it said.
The Pentagon said that the US Navy would like to work with the Indian Navy to improve capabilities to perform higher-end, operational missions in the Indian Ocean region as the strategic context dictates.