Washington: With the convergence of strategic interest in the Indian Ocean there is a mutual desire for a deeper naval and maritime co-operation between India and the US, top Pentagon commanders have said.
"The convergence of strategic maritime interests in the Indian Ocean region to include the security of critical energy and trade routes, the denial of free passage to terrorists and weapons proliferators, and the need for effective responses to natural disasters have led to a greater mutual desire for deeper naval and maritime cooperation between India and the US," Navy Rear Adm Kevin M Donegan, acting deputy chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, said.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Committee, Donegan along with other naval leadership in a joint testimony said that the relationship with India is among the top 21st century priorities for the US.
The Department of Defence emphasised India's role in the Asia Pacific rebalance in its 2012 strategic defence guidance document titled 'Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defence', which states that "the US' economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia to the Indian Ocean region and South Asia".
"...The US is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to be a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean," it said.
"But he said without any doubt China is building a modern and regionally powerful Navy with a modest but growing capability for conducting operations beyond China's near-seas region."
This creates both opportunities and challenges for the Navy.
"The issue at stake is the fundamental question of whether China will use its growing economic and military power to assert its interests without respect to international norms," he said.
Despite mounting concerns, the US seeks a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China that welcomes China`s ability to take on a responsible leadership role, he said.
"The Navy and Marine Corps' overall military concept is a balance of deterrence and encouragement, inviting the Chinese Navy to play a responsible and constructive role in promoting security and peaceful development and join in coalition operations, as it has in countering piracy in the Indian Ocean," he added.
He said the combination of the Asia-Pacific's economic importance to the world economy, its proximity to US security interests, and its expansive geography require an increased US naval presence to maintain our commitment to the stability of the region.
"Evolving challenges in the region including the activities of China's more modern Navy and the proliferation of anti-access/area denial require that the Navy and Marine Corps maintain a coordinated, leading role in the region," he added.