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Carter Hosts Indian Counterpart, Praises Strong Bilateral Ties

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2016 — With strong cooperation in defense and technology and in peace and security, the U.S.-India relationship is "destined to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.

The United States and India share a common vision for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, Carter said in a joint news conference at the Pentagon with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar.

The two officials last met in April when Carter visited India. Today's productive discussion marked their sixth meeting, Carter said, describing Parrikar as a strong and effective leader who is an innovator, great partner and true friend.

Carter praised recent developments in the bilateral relationship. He noted President Barack Obama hosted Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi in June, and India was designated then as a major defense partner of the United States.

"Today, we moved that partnership forward," Carter said.

Carter acknowledged he has never been more optimistic about the relationship or more committed to its progress. 

The nations will further strengthen cooperation in a number of areas to ensure the Asia-Pacific continues to be a region where everyone can rise and prosper, he said. 

He noted a number of successful, increasingly complex exercises with India, including the U.S. Army's Yudh Abhyas, scheduled for next month in India.

Advancing Strategic, Technology Ties

The designation of major defense partner allows for the United States to advance defense trade and technology sharing, Carter said. It also supports the two "important handshakes" between India and the United States, he explained.

The first handshake is strategic, as the United States focuses on a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, and India reaches east to extend its reach in the broader Indo-Asia-Pacific region, Carter said. The second handshake, which is technological, builds on the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, he said. The United States and India, Carter said, agreed to advance a number of collaborative projects, including on jet technology, chemical and biological protection, and aircraft carriers.

"These two handshakes have brought our two militaries closer together," Carter said.

Carter said the two governments signed the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement earlier today. He said that will facilitate a deeper engagement between the two militaries.

A joint statement said the visit demonstrates the importance both sides place on strengthening defense ties across many areas, including strategic and regional cooperation, military-to-military exchanges, and defense technology and innovation.

9/11 Memorial Visit, Condolences for Indian Air Force Plane

Earlier in the day, Carter and Parrikar laid a wreath at the Pentagon's memorial for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Carter noted the somber visit comes just ahead of the 15th anniversary of the attack.   

"Our DoD community lost so many friends and colleagues, and our nation lost too many fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters," he said.

Additionally, Carter offered condolences for an Indian air force plane that went missing last month with nearly 30 people on board. "On behalf of the men and women of the Defense Department, I offer our thoughts and our prayers for those missing and their families," he said.

World War II Remains

According to the joint statement, Carter reiterated his appreciation for the support from Parrikar and the Indian government that facilitated the recovery and repatriation in April of U.S. World War II remains.

Parrikar reinforced his commitment to this important mission, and he and Carter were pleased that the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency would return to India from Nov. 1 to Dec. 14 to survey additional aircraft crash locations, the joint statement said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)