New US defence chief praised for deepening defence ties with India

Washington, Feb 18: Ashton Carter has taken over as President Barack Obama's fourth defence secretary in six years with Vice President Joe Biden praising him for implementing the Asia-Pacific rebalance, including deepening defence cooperation with India.

Carter, 60, a former deputy defence secretary replaced Chuck Hagel, the lone Republican in the Obama cabinet who resigned last November under pressure. 

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He was sworn in by Biden as the 25th US defence secretary in a ceremony at the White House on Monday.

Calling Carter a "physicist and a genuine expert on the acquisition and technical capabilities that are going to help guarantee the US military is second to none in the world," Biden also described him as "a driving intellectual force" behind what the administration has been doing.

These included strengthening America's cyber capabilities, improving the way the Pentagon does business, and implementing the Asia-Pacific rebalance, including deepening defence cooperation with India, he said.

Later after meeting carter in the Oval Office, Obama said "he is hitting the ground running, having already spent a lot of time in this administration and in the Pentagon."

He said, "we talked about a wide range of security challenges and opportunities that we face around the world" and how "we maintain the strongest and most effective military in the world."

Calling the defence of the nation as "the highest calling," Carter made three commitments-to "help our president make the best possible decisions about our security", deciding about sending troops "into harm's way with the greatest reflection and care" and "building a force for our future."

During his confirmation hearing earlier this month Carter had vowed to prioritise the steady growth of India-US strategic partnership.

"We are seeing greater convergence in our interests and concerns than ever before, particularly between our rebalance to Asia and India's 'Act East,'" he then told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Strengthening the US-India defence relationship was a priority for me as Deputy Secretary of Defence and, if confirmed, I will continue to prioritise the steady growth of this relationship," he said.

Carter, who as Pentagon No. 2 launched the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) with India, had also pledged to lean-forward to expand DTTI with additional co-production and co-development activities.

During his recent India trip, he noted Obama announced four pathfinder projects under DTTI, a working group on aircraft carrier cooperation, and the possibility of cooperating on jet engine technology.


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