Days after US President Donald Trump’s statements about mediating between New Delhi and Islamabad, India will play the Pakistan card at the much-delayed Defence Policy Group (DPG) meeting beginning Thursday in Washington, DC.
At the secretary-level talks, India is expected to point out that the United States is very forthcoming on cooperation with the US Pacific Command that is being rapidly strengthened as Washington sees China as a major threat. So, with India, there is interaction at various levels, including Exercise Malabar between the two navies and Japan also playing a part. But India wants more interaction with the Central Command. It is the Central Command, with its naval unit’s headquarters in Bahrain, that is responsible for Pakistan. India unhesitatingly wants closer ties on its western side primarily because it would mean more exchange of intelligence about Pakistan. Closer cooperation with the USA in this area would mean a more stable zone on India’s west.
While the USA and Britain are building up a coalition of willing naval forces against Iran, India will operate independently in the Persian Gulf area. The Indian Navy’s Operation Sankalp will continue; it will be an independent operation.
Discussions on the transfer of weapons systems are likely. They include 10 P8I maritime reconnaissance planes for the Navy, along with 111 Naval Utility helicopters and 24 other choppers, both made by Lockheed Martin. There are talks of the Predator ‘B’ Sea Guardian UAVs, 1,000 plus sonobuoys and the 127mm medium calibre gun for Indian naval ships. Also, there is likely to be a talk about India purchasing about 270 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
For the Indian Air Force, there may be discussions about more C-130 and C-17 aircrafts and with the Army, about a major exercise and the purchase of radars and other equipment. The issue of the F-35 top-of-the-line fighter aircraft has been bandied about, but so far, India has not officially made any request to the United States.
Besides, talks about the operationalisation of COMCASA, one of the foundational agreements between the two countries and forward movement on the BECA, the agreement that is still under discussion, is expected.
Right after the meeting, a mini 2+2 meeting between officials of both sides is taking place in California. There will also be a Maritime Security Dialogue shortly afterwards.