“Let’s Be Ambitious Together” US Pacific Commander at Raisina Dialogue 2016 | Security Risks Asia Humane ClubMade with Humane Club

“Let’s Be Ambitious Together” US Pacific Commander at Raisina Dialogue 2016

Published Mar 05, 2016
Updated Apr 09, 2021

“Let’s Be Ambitious Together”

New Delhi | March 2, 2016

Raisina Dialogue Remarks

By U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris

Good Afternoon, and thank you, your Excellency’s, Ministers Swaraj and Jaishankar.

And a special thank you to the Observer Research Foundation for hosting the Raisina Dialogue and bringing together leaders and experts from diverse backgrounds.

I’m deeply honored to be at this wonderful venue to discuss ways to make this region a more prosperous and thriving part of the world.

I’ve just got to say up front: It’s always great to visit India. This is my second trip here in as many years. My first came way back in 1995 when I commanded a P-3 squadron and participated in one of the early Malabar exercises – we operated out of Trivandrum and Cochin. I also visited India as part of former-Secretary of State Clinton’s team.

With each visit I become more and more attached to the Indian people, your culture that I respect deeply, and, of course, the food. This certainly seems to be the case for all of my U.S. component commanders. As we all like to say, the PACOM area of responsibility stretches from Hollywood to Bollywood, but I had no idea how seriously my commanders took this phrase. Every time I try to get one of them to see me at my headquarters in Hawaii, it seems they are unavailable because they’re in India.

So I’m glad I’m the one who is unavailable back in Hawaii so that I could join you here. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about America’s growing relationship with India, which I’ve made a priority line of effort at PACOM. As the world’s two largest democracies, we are uniquely poised to help bring greater security and prosperity to the entire region.

And I think that’s primarily because two visionary policies are now coinciding at the perfect time. Initiated four years ago by President Obama, the United States is conducting a strategic Rebalance west to the Indo-Asia-Pacific. While at the same time, India is implementing Prime Minister Modi’s “Act East” policy. You need look no further than last October’s Malabar maritime exercise between India, Japan and the United States to see the security inter-connectedness of the Indian Ocean, Asia, and the Pacific Ocean.

An important component of these policies involves leadership engagement. So it was great to see President Obama visit New Delhi last year to discuss the strengthening of ties between our two great nations. During that visit, I was struck by what Prime Minister Modi said:

Quote. “This is a natural global partnership. It has become even more relevant in the digital age. It is needed even more in our world for far-reaching changes and widespread turmoil. The success of this partnership is important for our progress and for advancing peace, stability and prosperity around the world.” Unquote.

Those prophetic words set the tone for my remarks today.

Being from a small Southern town in the United States, I’m certainly not as eloquent as Prime Minister Modi. So if you can understand my Tennessee accent, I’ll simply say: Chalein saath saath … “Forward together we go.”

And in my opinion, we can’t go forward, together fast enough. That’s why I was pleased that last year, Prime Minister Modi and President Obama outlined the U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision.

I believe this is a true indicator of the potential that exists for our two nations. Together, we can develop a roadmap that leverages our respective efforts to improve the security architecture and strengthen regional dialogues.

Together, we can ensure free and open sea lanes of communication that are critical for global trade and prosperity. This is a pillar of the international and inclusive rules-based global order and a principle upon which we cannot waiver.

So for the next few minutes let’s be ambitious together … and consider how we might realize the security aspects of the Joint Vision by identifying some actions we can take to advance our strategic partnership.

I’ll begin by recognizing that as the birthplace of Buddhism and a historical center of Sufi Islam, India’s cultural influence extends from Southeast Asia to Mongolia and from Indonesia to the steps of Central Asia … and to the United States where approximately 3.5 million Americans of Indian descent live and thrive.

India is an important fabric in the American tapestry.

I also believe that India is a critical part of the PACOM tapestry. I’m sometimes asked why I always use the term “Indo-Asia-Pacific” versus the commonly used “Asia-Pacific” by smart people like those in the room today. My answer is simple – Indo-Asia-Pacific more accurately captures the fact that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are the economic lifeblood that bind India, Australia, Asia, Oceania and the United States together.

Strengthening that economic connective tissue through security and diplomatic partnership is what America’s Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific is all about.

Expanded cooperation with India will not only be the defining partnership for the Rebalance, it will arguably be the defining partnership for America in the 21st century.

And on the security front, we need India’s leadership in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

We are ready for you.

We need you.

I’m clear eyed – and perhaps a bit moonstruck – by the opportunities a strategic partnership with India represents. I’m also just as clear-eyed about the threats in this region. There are significant security challenges that no one country is capable of solving alone.

For example, by 2050, it is expected that 7 out of every 10 people who walk the planet will live in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. This level of population and urbanization will present special challenges in regard to the demand for food, energy, housing and importantly, freedoms.

While these challenges will test the global community in the coming years, they are not insurmountable. While there is much to do, much has already been done to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Last year, India hosted Japan and Australia for its first ever high-level trilateral dialogue in New Delhi. Some of the topics discussed were maritime security — including freedom of navigation patrols – and tri-lateral cooperation in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

One idea to consider is initiating a Quad-lateral Security Dialogue between India-Japan-Australia and the United States. Adding the U.S into this dialogue can amplify the message that we are united behind the international rules-based order that has kept the peace and is essential to all of us.

The India-U.S. Joint Vision outlined the requirement to develop a roadmap that leverages our respective efforts to improve the security architecture and strengthen regional dialogues.

Additionally, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abe outlined the Japan and India Vision 2025 for a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. One week later, Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Turnbull had similar discussions in Tokyo where both voiced opposition to coercive actions in the South and East China Seas … hearty support for America’s Rebalance policy … and recognition of the challenges of nuclear proliferation, North Korea and terrorism.

This is ambition in action. It ensures the vision of our country’s leaders by strengthening military-to-military collaboration and in the process, it will improve the security and prosperity of the entire region. We must also continue to encourage robust senior defense and leadership dialogues like the one held last year between U.S. Defense Secretary Carter and Indian Defense Minister Parrikar. This meeting established a decade’s worth of agreements including the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative – or D.T.T.I. – which has helped put the U.S.-India defense relationship on a fast-track.

Fast-track is good, because in my opinion, all of us should be rushing to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship while helping India’s position as a global power and the security partner of choice in this region.

Another promising outcome of Prime Minister Parrikar’s 8-day visit to Washington was an agreement for a series of joint India-U.S. exercises scheduled to take place this year.

This kind of progress is welcome stunning. We went from barely talking only a few years ago to not only talking together, but doing together. Skepticism and suspicion on both sides are being replaced by cooperation, dialogue, and trust.

Secretary Carter will visit India next month for the second time in the past year, as will Undersecretary Kendall. Both of them have spent many years strengthening bilateral ties, laying the groundwork to achieve the Defense Framework agreement signed last year. We’re all appreciative of how they have both led from the front.

Speaking of robust senior leadership engagements, our Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Richardson told me about his recent visit in New Delhi, and was amazed by what he saw during the Visakhapatnam International Fleet Review.

He was proud to be one of 50 countries with visiting warships to join a number of heads of navies from around the world to celebrate your Fleet Review. Our crews from USS Antietam and USS McCampbell will never forget the hospitality they received in Vizag. Our C.N.O. is only one of many flag and general officers working closely with their Indian counterparts.

By the time this month is over, nearly a dozen, U.S. command-level officers from the Pacific region will have visited India since the beginning of the New Year.

At every level, this relationship flourishes and is strengthened by senior leadership visits, increased port visits and exercises.

This summer, India will join 27 nations during the Rim of the Pacific – or RIMPAC as we call it. This is the world’s largest international maritime exercise and Admiral Scott Swift, who just visited India in January, looks forward to hosting everyone in Hawaii. India will also participate in Red Flag ’16, an advanced aerial combat training exercise hosted by the U.S. Air Force in Nevada.

Exercising together will lead to operating together.

By being ambitious, India, Japan, Australia, the United States and so many other like-minded nations can aspire to patrol together anywhere international law allows. The idea of safeguarding freedom of access to international waters and airspace is not something new for us to ponder – this is a principle based upon the international, rules-based global order that has served this region well for decades. And for decades, the United States has conducted freedom of navigation patrols – or FONOPs – without incident. No nation should perceive FONOPs as a threat.

U.S. Ambassador Verma recently spoke about “Mare Liberum” – the Latin term for “a free sea for everyone.” This is the foundation of the concept of freedom of navigation for centuries. Freedom of navigation on the high seas and the airspace above them are not some abstract concept to be studied in academia. They’re not privileges of rich and powerful countries. They’re fundamental rights of all nations. While some countries seek to bully smaller countries through intimidation and coercion, I note with admiration India’s example of peaceful resolution of disputes with your neighbors in the waters of the Indian Ocean. India, indeed, stands like a beacon on a hill in a potential Dark Age.

I say potential Dark Age because the rules-based security architecture is under threat. That’s why it’s critical that India’s voice be heard in this increasingly complicated and inter-connected world. As India continues to take a leading role as a world power, combined military operations with other nations will undoubtedly become routine and not the exception.

So I echo Ambassador Verma’s vision that, in the not too distant future, American and Indian Navy vessels steaming together will become a common and welcome sight throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific waters, as we work together to maintain freedom of the seas for all nations.

Considering the $5.3 trillion dollars in trade that traverses each year from the Indian Ocean and through the South China Sea, we all have a vested interest in ensuring our region remain secure, stable, and prosperous. How Indo-Asia-Pacific nations employ naval forces to support these economic interests matters greatly.

And because of ventures like D.T.T.I, prosperity for India and the United States is also enhanced. This agreement is a framework that charts a course for the U.S.-India relationship for the next decade.

It fosters technology cooperation, works to build industry-to-industry ties and identifies opportunities for the co-development and co-production of defense systems.

This is truly a unique partnership for the United States. We have overhauled our approach to defense licensing to India with a presumption of approval for the vast majority of sophisticated platforms. Our offers to provide Indian forces with Apache attack helicopters – the most advanced in the U.S. inventory – Chinook heavy lift helicopters, and M777 howitzers are akin to our defense relationships with our closest NATO allies.

Last month, the joint Aircraft Carrier Technology Working Group met here in India and laid the ground work to bring state-of-the-art technology to India’s indigenous carrier. This includes electromagnetic technology that will enable India to launch heavier planes from its carriers and ultimately increase Indian capacity to safeguard the maritime domain.

I pledge my unwavering support to programs like D.T.T.I. by providing subject matter experts, increased opportunities for joint training, and championing pilot programs tied to this joint endeavor.

As we expand civil-military collaboration, we should also explore action around a strong cyber security infrastructure, especially as it relates to industrial control systems and “Smart Cities.” Our nations could structure coalition cyber exercises to explore how we can better protect critical infrastructure and industrial control systems where the threats are not completely understood.

I mentioned North Korea earlier, a belligerent nation and notorious proliferator. Regional security requires that we be ambitious together in adopting a more proactive counter-proliferation posture to put an end to W.M.D.-related trafficking. And this means encouraging all like-minded nations to join the P.S.I. – the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Finally, the last ambitious action that I will mention today is the need for cooperative response to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. And as Ambassador Verma just spoke about last month, the threat caused by rising sea levels represents an enduring challenge for the region.

These ambitions will allow us to move forward, together. With each engagement, U.S.-India defense ties will continue to grow stronger. Our two nations share a vision for a partnership in which India and the United States work together — not just for the benefit of both countries – but for the benefit of the entire region by supporting an open and inclusive rules-based global order based on international law.

The United States and India have committed to expanding our strategic partnership in order to harness the inherent potential of our two great democracies and the growing ties between our people, economies, and governments.

As both countries work toward a common future, this is a relationship that will be critical in strengthening the Indo-Asia-Pacific security architecture so that everyone can continue to develop and prosper.

By virtue of India’s geography and history, it must chart its own path on the world stage. But I think Prime Minister Modi has it right in saying that ‘our destinies are linked by the currents of the Indian Ocean.’’ So “let’s be ambitious together” and create a model of strategic partnership for the rest of the world to emulate.

Finally, I know the Raisina Dialogue is envisioned to be India’s flagship conference of geopolitics and geo-economics … and predicated on India’s vital role, not only in the Indian Ocean Region, but the greater Indo-Asia-Pacific region. I believe you are off to a wonderful start.

Thank you.