Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office (photo: Reuters)
While rejuvenating the sluggish Indian economy is the main mission of the new NDA administration, a growing area of cooperation with the U.S. will be in defence and security. This partnership is expected to address the threat of terrorism, including from Pakistan-based groups, and heightened defence and space cooperation, including a joint mission to Mars.
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also pledged to intensify cooperation in maritime security to ensure freedom of navigation, which appears to be in response to China's expanding maritime ambitions.
"The leaders agreed to intensify cooperation in maritime security to ensure freedom of navigation and unimpeded movement of lawful shipping and commercial activity, in accordance with the accepted principles of international law,” said the US-India joint statement issued on Tuesday.
During the summit talks between Obama and Modi at the White House, both sides agreed to extend the framework agreement of defence between the two countries for a further ten years. They also reportedly considered enhancing technology partnerships for the Indian Navy.
The existing annual naval exercise MALABAR, which includes a range of activities from fighter combat operations to aircraft carriers, will also be upgraded.
Yet the agreement that attracted the most attention from the Indian media was the reference to organising "joint and concerted efforts" by both countries to dismantle safe havens of terrorists and of criminal networks, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohamed, D-company, Haqqani network and al-Qaida.
Asked if this implied joint military intelligence action inside Pakistan, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said there was no need to elaborate and the people concerned would understand the signs on the wall.
Meanwhile, a top Pentagon official said on Tuesday that he had "high expectations" for the joint U.S.-Indian effort to deepen defence ties, but it could take a while to agree on specific weapons to develop or produce together.
"Prime Minister Modi is very aware of the initiative. His staff is clearly motivated at every level to make it a success and move forward," Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, told Reuters after a meeting with Modi and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Kendall is the top U.S. official working on the joint Defense Trade and Technology Initiative with India that has identified 17 specific defense projects where joint development is possible.
He said India and the United States are still discussing one of those ideas: a joint program for upgrading the Javelin anti-tank missile built by Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co.
Kendall said Washington was also open to a broader agreement on missile development with India, which could benefit both countries at a time when U.S. military spending is declining.
"If we pool our resources, we may be able to do more than the U.S. currently has planned," he pointed out.