US-India defense ties grow closer as shared concerns in Asia loom

President Donald Trump with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Houston, Sept. 22, 2019. (The New York Times: Doug Mills)

Written by Zach Montague

As Indian helicopters touched down this week on the deck of a US warship in the Bay of Bengal, what was billed as a modest military simulation became the latest sign of progress in a growing great power partnership in Asia.

The United States and India on Thursday will conclude the first land, sea and air exercise in their history of military exchanges, a step forward in White House efforts to deepen defense cooperation between the countries.

The exercise, Tiger Triumph, brought together 500 US Marines and sailors and about 1,200 Indian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel to train side by side for nine days. While the official focus was to prepare for rescue operations and disaster response, it also included search-and-seizure training and live-fire drills.

The staging of the joint training completes one of the goals of a defense pact the two countries signed last year. In addition to the exercise, the agreement allows for the transfer of advanced weaponry and communications systems to India.

The only other country with which India has held similar exercises involving three branches of its armed forces is Russia. During the Cold War, India was closer to the Soviet Union than to the United States, and much of the Indian arsenal still harks back to that era.

“You hear officials say now that the US…

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