Amidst a northward trajectory of bilateral defense relations, the United States Army will host India’s Army Chief for four days this month to further deepen the ties and explore possible co-production and co-development initiatives for military technologies.
The visit comes close on the heels of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifying Congress of a future US$4-billion sale of 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian ISR drones to India just this month. The Indian Army will get eight of the 31 Sky Guardians, though the contract for the purchase is still a few months away.
General Manoj Pande will go on “a significant official tour” of the US from February 13 to 16, the Indian Army said in a statement on February 12, noting that the visit “underscores the deepening military cooperation and strategic partnership” between the two nations.
Once in the US, the Indian Army chief would engage in high-level discussions and interactions with US Army Chief of Staff General Randy George and other senior military leaders. During the US visit, General Pande would aim to “further strengthen defense cooperation and foster stronger bonds” between the US and Indian armies.
The highlight of this official travel would be a “comprehensive tour” of the Pentagon, apart from a US Army Honour Guard ceremony and a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
The two Army chiefs of staff would exchange ideas on crucial topics such as “the Transformation in the Indian Army, Global Threat Perception, Transformation to Army-2030/2040, Human Resource Challenges, Future Force Development and Modernisation, and Co-Production & Co-Development Initiatives.”
“These engagements symbolize the respect and mutual commitment towards global peace and security shared between the two countries. These discussions are aimed at sharing insights, ideas, and best practices between the two armies,” the Indian Army said.
Officials told EurAsian Times that the talks on Indian Army Transformation and Future Plans could involve sharing ideas on the induction of emerging and critical military technologies and the man-machine connection that is part of the process.
The two chiefs would discuss military modernization plans, including technology infusion into their respective forces, apart from projects that could involve the two sides, including their military-industrial complex in jointly building military technologies, weapons, and equipment.
The two sides would also discuss challenges such as human resources, as both the US and Indian armies face recruitment troubles due to a lack of eligible youth in the US and the reduced service period under the ‘Agnipath’ 4-year military duty in the Indian Army.
The officials said the two Army chiefs would also share their views and exchange ideas on the global threat perceptions and evolving war strategies around the world, including on China, its aggressive military posturing, the rapid pace of its military equipment induction, and armed forces strength, apart from the recent wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and the threats posed by non-state actors including terror groups to world peace.
The Indian Army chief would also get to visit and understand the purpose and use of the US Army Geospatial Center at Fort Belvoir, the National Defense University at Fort McNair, and an interaction with a Corps-level leadership of the US Army.
He will also engage with units at the forefront of military innovation and strategy, including the Stryker Unit, the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force, the 1st Special Forces Group at Seattle, and the Defence Innovation Unit in San Francisco.
A visit to the California National Guard is also planned, highlighting the comprehensive nature of the visit to explore avenues for more significant training, co-development, and co-production engagements.
General Randy George had recently visited India for the Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference (IPACC) that the Indian Army and the US Army jointly hosted. The conference was attended by 18 chiefs of armies and delegations from 12 other countries.
During IPACC, General Randy George and General Manoj Pande engaged in constructive dialogue, addressing a wide range of issues related to military cooperation, synergizing approaches to HADR, increasing military exchange endeavors, and other matters of mutual interest.
Their interactions, including a joint press conference, underscored the deepening cooperation and collaborative spirit between the military leadership of the two nations, setting a positive backdrop for General Pande’s current visit to the United States.
“This present visit (of General Pande) is another milestone in the Indo-US defense relationship, reflecting a mutual desire to enhance military collaboration, exchange strategic perspectives on global threat perceptions, and work together toward future force development and modernization,” the Indian Army said.
“The engagements between General Manoj Pande and senior leadership of the United States Army are poised to yield substantive outcomes, fostering an environment conducive to shared security interests and defense cooperation,” it said.
“The Indian Army and the United States Army share a commitment to peace, democracy, and stability across regions. This tour epitomizes the shared values and interests that underpin the partnership between India and the United States, aiming at a future of enhanced cooperation and mutual development in defense and security domains,” the Indian Army added.
The two armies are already holding joint military exercises, such as the Yudh Abhyas and Vajra Prahar, which have helped the two forces share best practices in anti-terror operations and armored warfare. The Indian Army currently deploys 145 M777 Ultra Light Howitzers, made by BAE Systems’ US arm, particularly in the mountainous northern borders with China.
- NC Bipindra is a 30-year veteran in journalism specializing in strategic affairs, geopolitics, aerospace, defense, and diplomacy. He has written extensively for the Times of India, New Indian Express, Press Trust of India, and Bloomberg News. He can be reached at ncbipindra (at) gmail.com
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