US Wants Leadership Role for India in Asia-Pacific

By Associated Press 23 February 2016

NEW DELHI — India’s leadership is sorely needed in the Asia-Pacific region, and the United States is prepared to cooperate with India “as never before” on the high seas, a top US diplomat said Monday.

The US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, said the cooperation was not aimed at China, even though Washington sees the presence of Chinese missiles in the South China Sea as evidence of the militarization of the area.

He also said US Defense Secretary Ash Carter will return to India in April for an unprecedented third visit in less than a year.

“I hope that in the not-too-distant future the United States and Indian navy vessels steaming together will become a common and welcome sight throughout Indo-Pacific water,” Verma told a group of Indian journalists.

The ambassador said ties between the militaries of the United States and India were becoming increasingly close.

“Our offers to provide Indian forces with Apache attack helicopters—the most advanced helicopter in the US inventory—Chinook heavy lift helicopters and M777 howitzers are akin to our defense relationships with our closest NATO allies,” he said.

China accuses the US of militarizing the Asia-Pacific region, saying patrols by US Navy vessels and military aircraft have escalated tensions.

Other countries in the region have welcomed the US presence as China claims the South China Sea as its domain.