U.S. Consulate Kolkata and CUTS International host “Defense News Conclave” highlights: U.S. and India have never been more interconnected

The U.S. Consulate General Kolkata and CUTS International organized a half-day workshop titled “Defense News Conclave: Stories of U.S.-India Defense and Security Partnership,” to inform the media the bilateral defense relationship between the United States and India is strong and continues to grow.

More than 100 representatives from the media, think tanks, and defense experts, defense industry leaders and civil society participated in the hybrid event hosted in Kolkata, to focus on the positive messages highlighted by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the recent joint statement which underscores that the U.S.-India partnership has evolved into a comprehensive global strategic relationship involving joint research, co-development and production of high-end defense equipment, and expanded cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The workshop was spread across two sessions focused on disseminating good practices of the U.S.-India Defense and Security Partnership in general and its relevance in the Indo-Pacific region, in particular. Among others, it looked at the milestones set and achieved, and policies and gaps to be filled in to secure a free, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

Delivering the keynote address, Colonel Douglas Hess, U.S. Army Attache, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi said, “It’s important to recognize that the U.S. and India have never been more interconnected, whether through the information connection of the Internet or through global supply chains.  One click sets in motion the world.  Certainly, if we look at it from a people to people standpoint, we are certainly interconnected.  I’d wager virtually everyone in this room has friends or family residing in the U.S.  And it’s no secret that some of our biggest business leaders in the U.S. are Indian American, not to mention our Vice President.  When I first got to India I’d often see articles questioning why the U.S. and India should be partners, but the longer I’ve been here it seems to me the only real question is what type of partners will we be? Historic challenges require unprecedented cooperation with like-minded allies and partners who share in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.  In this endeavor, the United States is proud to work alongside India’s leadership in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, as a driving force of the Quad and other multinational fora, and as an engine for regional growth and development. The past twelve months have been a watershed year for the relationship, as the United States and India took important steps to further our strategic goals. As we have seen throughout the 21st century, we rarely know in advance when we are going to face a crisis, whether that is a health crisis, an environmental crisis, or a physical attack from a conventional or unconventional enemy.  Nations cannot wait until a crisis arrives to build partnerships.  One cannot surge trust, one has to build it early and deepen it every day.  These military cooperation efforts, combined with bilateral and multi-lateral economic, health, and climate initiatives prepare us to be ready to work together when a crisis hits.”

Adrian Pratt, Acting Consul General, Public Affairs Officer and Director of the American Center, U.S. Consulate General Kolkata, mentioned that, “Cooperation with India strengthens our security, bolsters our prosperity, and enriches our society.  An enormous range of Americans have a stake in the U.S.-India relationship and expect further progress in achieving the full potential of U.S.-India defense ties as it spans the scope of human endeavour, from sea to space, from security to health, and from energy to education. These are all positive stories, and through this project with our partner CUTS International, we want to tell these stories to the citizens of India and beyond. We are kicking off the first of the series of these workshops in Kolkata and we will schedule workshops in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, and finally in New Delhi that will bring in defense experts, government officials, corporate leaders, defense companies, entrepreneurs, and researchers from the U.S. and India to interact with think tank leaders, journalists, and social media influencers across India. We want to tell you that managing our defense and law enforcement activities keeps all our citizens—young and old—female, male, and non-binary—safe from crime, reduces the risks from terrorism, and protects us from the threat of war.”

One of the biggest deliveries of the India-U.S. Defense and Security Partnership has been the progression from ‘Democracies can deliver’ to ‘Democracies have delivered’, said Bipul Chattopadhyay, Executive Director, CUTS International. Delivering his opening remarks, Chattopadhyay added that the India-U.S. relationship is growing and is going to grow further in the coming years.

Highlighting the historical relationship between India and the U.S., Lieutenant General Subrata Saha, Former Member of the National Security Advisory Board and Deputy Chief of Army Staff, mentioned that the 2+2 Dialogues between India and the U.S. have been instrumental in bridging the gap and provided impetus to this relationship. This has helped to overcome the bureaucratic delays and accelerate the closeness among the top leadership of both the countries. He said because of their closeness, both the nations are talking about undertaking initiatives in the area of critical and emerging technologies, which is a large area for wider cooperation.

Speaking about how the U.S.-India defense and security partnership has panned out in the Indo-Pacific, Chintamani Mahapatra, Founder and Honorary Chairman of Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies said without India, there would be no Indo-Pacifc. He added that it is important for U.S.-India to stand together for an open, free and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Pointing out that it is in the interest of U.S. to keep India on its side, Shekhar Dutt, Former Governor of Chhattisgarh and Defense Secretary of India, added, “One U.S. added to One India is 11 and together they should seize the opportunities of participating together in the global supply chain.”

Partha P. Roy Chowdhury, Commercial Lead, Lockheed Martin India, elucidated that the collaboration of Lockheed Martin India, has also created opportunities for MSMEs in India through forward and backward linkages in production and manufacturing.

Among other illustrious panelists, including Manu Pubby, Senior Editor, Economic Times; Arun Ramchandani, Executive Vice President L&T Defense; Indranil Banerjie, Senior Analyst and Freelance Journalist in their remarks, highlighted that there is deep trust building between both the countries and this will be the bedrock of this relationship.

Among the other distinguished speakers were Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Former Chief of Air Staff and President, CENERS-K, Col. Baljinder Singh (Retd.), Director, Aerospace and Defense, USISPF, India Office and Sucharita Bhattacharjee, Policy Analyst, CUTS International, who presented their succinct presentation on this timely issue.

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