Military ships sailing in formation (DOD/U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leon Wong)
Ships from the Indian Navy, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy sail in formation in the Bay of Bengal in 2017. (DOD/U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leon Wong)

The two largest democracies in the world look to strengthen an already strong relationship.

Three sailors wearing headphones lining ship railing (DOD/U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leon Wong)
Sailors from the Indian Navy aboard the USS Nimitz in the Bay of Bengal in 2017. (DOD/U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leon Wong)

India holds more military exercises with the United States than any other partner. This close military relationship will be among the items on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meet with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, September 6 in New Delhi. It is the first such meeting between the nations.

“The dialogue is an indication of the deepening strategic partnership between our two countries and India’s emergence as a net security provider in the region,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said August 29.

Pompeo recently announced a new initiative in the Bay of Bengal, home to sea lanes linking the Indian Ocean to East Asia. The U.S. will work with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others to share commercial shipping information to help improve security and respond to emerging threats.

“When we say ‘free’ Indo-Pacific, it means we all want all nations, every nation, to be able to protect their sovereignty from coercion by other countries. At the national level, ‘free’ means good governance and the assurance that citizens can enjoy their fundamental rights and liberties,” Pompeo said in July.

“When we say ‘open’ in the Indo-Pacific, it means we want all nations to enjoy open access to seas and airways. We want the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes. This is key for international peace and for each country’s attainment of its own national aims,” the secretary said.

Sailors walking near helicopters on ship deck (DOD/U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)
Indian Navy Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta (center) on board the USS Nimitz in the Bay of Bengal in 2017. (DOD/U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)

The United States is providing funds for military training and exercises with India and establishing “specific benchmarks for measurable progress toward enhancing India’s status as a major defense partner and defense and security cooperation with India,” according to the U.S. 2019 defense-spending legislation.

The United States and India also have worked together over the past three years to enhance the participation of African partner countries in peacekeeping missions through three courses hosted in New Delhi and a U.S.-India Mobile Training Team, which deployed to Zambia in February to offer field medical training.