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Arms Control and International Security: Talks With India and Bangladesh

Andrew J. Shapiro
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Carnegie Endowment Roundtable
Washington, DC
April 24, 2012

Ashley, thank you for having me here and for arranging this discussion. I also want to commend you for the great work you and your colleagues do here at Carnegie. We certainly follow the work you all do very closely. And I also want to thank all of you for coming and I really look forward to hearing from all of you about our growing partnerships in South Asia. Before we move to the discussion I just want to say a few words about our security cooperation with India and Bangladesh.

Last week I travelled to Delhi and Dhaka for talks to enhance our security relationships. Both of these visits were very productive and will help further our growing partnerships with these countries. These visits also demonstrated the different security cooperation tools we utilize to engage our partners. They demonstrate how security cooperation is critical to our diplomatic engagement.

Let me begin by first explaining why security cooperation is an essential part of the State Department’s mandate. There is sometimes confusion about where these roles begin and end between the Departments of Defense and State. And many often wonder why the State Department is involved at all in “harder” security related areas. The reason is fairly straightforward: security cooperation has broad foreign policy implications. It is not just that weapons can be used in a conflict and therefore must be dealt with very carefully. It is that security cooperation – whether that involves defense trade, security assistance, or joint exercises – are fundamentally foreign policy acts.

Take defense trade for example. When a country acquires an advanced U.S. defense system through our Foreign Military Sales, Defense Commercial Sales, or Foreign Military Financing programs, they aren’t simply buying a product, they are also buying into a long-term relationship. What is generally underappreciated is that the complex and technical nature of advanced defense systems frequently requires constant collaboration and interaction between countries over the life of that system – decades in many cases. This may include training and support in the use of the system, assistance in maintenance, and help to update and modernize the system throughout its life-cycle. This cooperation therefore helps build bilateral ties and creates strong incentives for recipient countries to maintain good relations with the United States. Defense sales therefore both reinforce our diplomatic relations and establish a long-term security relationship.

Our security cooperation therefore often serves to undergird our diplomatic relationships. As the principal link between the Departments of State and Defense, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which I oversee, exercises the Secretary’s authority in this area. We work to ensure that any arms transfer or assistance the U.S. government provides is fully in line with U.S. foreign policy. This demands working closely with DoD and making sure both agencies are working in sync. I’ll just note that while in the past State-DoD cooperation has not always been smooth, under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, the State-DoD relationship has never been better. And as a result we are seeing an unprecedented level of coordination. This coordination will prove critical, because I believe over the coming decade U.S. security cooperation will be an increasingly important tool for U.S. foreign policy. And this is especially true with our increasingly important relationship with India and Bangladesh.

So let me now turn to my recent trip to the region.

Last week I travelled to Dehli to conduct the first U.S.-India Pol-Mil talks since 2006. Our principal objective of these talks was to reaffirm our commitment to the bilateral relationship and chart a way forward toward a deeper defense partnership. And I believe that the talks made important progress to that end.

The United States and India are building a robust relationship based on shared security interests. Since the signing of a bilateral defense framework agreement in 2005, our defense relationship has become a major pillar of the strategic partnership. For example:

  • India now holds more than 50 annual military exercises with the United States, more than any other country.
  • Cumulative defense sales have grown from virtually zero to more than $8 billion.
  • And high-level exchanges on defense issues also have increased, as demonstrated by last week’s talks.

The defense trade relationship between the United States and India is certainly expanding and it plays an integral role in the defense relationship and overall strategic partnership. The United States successfully concluded several significant Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales since 2009, including the sale of eight P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft, six C-130J transportation aircraft and ten C-17 transport aircraft. Once all have been delivered, India will have the second largest C-17 fleet behind the United States, providing it with a significant strategic airlift capability in the region.

With India’s projected defense trade spending expected to continue to increase, we are seeking to engage the Government of India to address any outstanding concerns they may have with the U.S. acquisition system. One of our major objectives during the talks was to better familiarize the Indian government with our system and to attempt to address any potential concerns they may have. During our discussions, we sought to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the Foreign Military Sales or FMS and Direct Commercial Sales or DCS systems by detailing how to go about choosing between them. FMS pertains to sales between governments, while DCS involves commercial defense sales abroad. Often times, countries can view FMS more skeptically and prefer the more transactional nature of the DCS system. However, we believe the U.S.-India defense and trade relationship would benefit by linking defense sales with broader strategic goals. That’s why we specifically articulated the technical and political advantages that FMS offers. This entails political buy-in and support from Congress. The full faith and backing of the U.S. government, transparency, support throughout the systems lifecycle, as well as expanded inter-operability between our forces, which would greatly benefit the U.S.-India defense and military-to-military relationships.

Another area of discussion was U.S. security assistance to India through our International Military Education and Training Program or IMET. India benefits from one of the largest and longest-standing IMET programs, graduating more than 1,700 Indian officers since the program’s initiation more than forty years ago. In FY 2011, more than 51 Indian officers came to the United States to attend courses through the IMET program. The linkages established through IMET also help build personal relationships between officer corps, which helps bolster our relationship over long term, as well as helps professionalize partner militaries. This is all achieved for a little more than one million dollars per year.

A major area of discussion during our talks was the issue of piracy emanating from Somalia. Somali pirates have expanded their range of operations all the way to the coast of India, creating a real security challenge for India and for the international community. My Bureau coordinates the U.S. counter-piracy response and we discussed ways we can together improve the international response to piracy. India has been an important contributor to the international effort. Since 2006, we have expanded our maritime cooperation with India, as we see counter-piracy as an area where we can work together closely.

Now let me turn to Bangladesh. This was my first visit to Bangladesh and I believe that our relationship is very strong. Indeed, over the past decade, the bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Government of Bangladesh has become one of the most robust in South Asia. Bangladesh is a key player in maintaining security in the Bay of Bengal. They are an active partner in regional counterterrorism efforts and we are working to enhance their ability to respond to natural disasters.

Our cooperation with Bangladesh is a prime example of how U.S. security assistance can play a critically important role in our diplomatic engagement. My Bureau plays an integral role in this relationship through our security assistance programs, our global peacekeeping programs, and our authority over the allocation of excess defense articles.

Since first receiving Foreign Military Financing or FMF in 2005, Bangladesh has focused on building patrol boat fleets for the Coast Guard—a project that supports maritime security and disaster relief and strengthens the government’s presence in isolated areas. Bangladesh is also working through a military modernization plan, which includes looking to partners for affordable defense systems, especially to supply its Special Operations Forces and disaster relief equipment. This modernization effort provides an opportunity for us to expand our security cooperation, especially through our Excess Defense Articles program, which makes U.S. equipment that is surplus to our requirements available to our partners.

Additionally, we provide assistance to support Bangladesh’s peacekeeping efforts. They are the largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. Today Bangladesh has over 10,000 troops deployed supporting nine U.N. operations. My Bureau oversees the Global Peace Operations Initiative, which has supported military peacekeeping training and assisted with improvements and refurbishment of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training.

Our security assistance to Bangladesh also demonstrates the tremendous impact these programs can have in supporting states trying to build their security capacity. In an interconnected world, terrorists, pirates, traffickers, and other transnational actors can exploit the weakness of states to cause mayhem and instability. Our assistance is helping states like Bangladesh better control their borders and their coastlines. Our assistance is helping Bangladesh better deal with natural disasters and transnational threats. And through our training initiatives and exchanges we are helping professionalize national military forces to ensure they can better protect their publics, while respecting human rights. In short, our security assistance is playing a critically important role for the people of Bangladesh and for the national security of the United States.

So with that I look forward to the discussion.