WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2012 – In his first visit to India as commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III encouraged a closer defense relationship between the United States and India in which they address shared interests to promote long-term regional security and stability.
Locklear emphasized the U.S. interest in taking its relationship with India to the next level during meetings with Defense Minister A.K. Antony, Chief of Integrated Defense Staff Vice Adm. SPS Cheema and other officials in New Delhi.
“Building a strong military relationship with India builds understanding and deepens established ties that will contribute to the larger Asia-Pacific region,” Locklear said during an Oct. 12 roundtable discussion at the Observer Research Foundation think tank following the sessions.
Locklear, who made a priority of developing the U.S.-India strategic partnership when he took the helm at Pacom in March, noted the two countries’ common values and their mutual interest in a secure environment that promotes stability and allows economies to grow.
He emphasized the impact of globalization, which has increased the importance of sea lanes as a conduit of global commerce and the free flow of information in cyberspace.
“The economic system is so interlocked that a disruption of the flow of … goods that disrupts the economy, in and of itself, is a security threat,” the admiral told a Hindustan Times reporter.
But globalization also has given rise to terrorist structures and groups conducting illicit activities no longer limited by national borders, he noted. That demands closer cooperation among regional nations so they can work together to support their shared concerns, Locklear said.
“We’re seeing an environment that demands more multilateralism,” he said. “A regional environment utilizing strengthened partnerships and alliances will uphold long-term diplomacy, security and prosperity.”
Locklear noted a “quite productive” effort to increase compatibility between the U.S. and Indian militaries, particularly in the maritime domain. But he encouraged closer future cooperation in two additional areas: counterterrorism and disaster response.
“I believe that where we have the most to gain in interaction is counterterrorism,” he said. “We both have similar concerns, not just about counterterrorism in the immediate area of any one country. It’s the spread of that terrorism, and its ability to upset the security environment in a way not productive for the future.”
Locklear also recognized the value of regional collaboration to provide better responses to natural disasters and reduce suffering. “Militaries have a role in being able to respond early and jump start [that response],” he said. “I believe the United States and India share a very similar perspective on the importance of that.”
To improve their ability to work cooperatively, the admiral acknowledged the need to increase technology-sharing. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta made that point when he visited India in June, and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter re-emphasized it during his follow-up visit to New Delhi in July.
“When it relates to our defense trade initiatives, there needs to be some streamlining, with more efficiency in it,” Locklear agreed. “Certainly the timelines and bureaucracies on both sides need to be streamlined.”
He applauded efforts both countries are making in that direction, recognizing that increasing compatibility benefits the entire region.
“We … need the Indian military to have the very best equipment it can,” Locklear said. “It is in the best interest of Pacom, and I believe of the security of the Asia-Pacific region, for the United States and our partners and allies in this region to be able for us to come together in a military way and be able to operate together effectively when necessary.”
Asked about China’s role, Locklear emphasized the importance of engaging positively with China as it emerges as a regional and global power and leader.
“If you step back and look at the strategic rise of China, it shouldn’t be unexpected that as China rises in both economic and military power, they will start to have a greater influence on their neighbors and the region in which they live, and eventually, on the global environment,” he said.
“The question is, ‘How do we as a global community … attempt to allow China to … become a productive member of the security environment?’” Locklear said. “India and the U.S. share that as a common concern, and it should be a common objective.”
The alternative, he said, is not good for anyone. Historically, turmoil has occurred when emerging powers like China entered into mature security environments that included a superpower like the United States. “In the past, we haven’t had a lot of success with that happening without conflict,” Locklear said.
“But today, the stakes are different. The world population is much more interlocked than in the past,” he said. “We must see a future where China emerges productively and is contributing to a secure, peaceful environment and is not on the outside, looking in, or vice versa.”
(Army Staff Sgt. Carl N. Hudson of U.S. Pacific Command contributed to this article.)