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To combat the rise of China, the United States must strengthen its defense partnership with India. I have been encouraged by the growing alliance between India and the United States since the resurgence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) in 2017, and my hope is that India remains central to President Biden's Indo-Pacific strategy. By helping India upgrade its defense systems, the United States can empower India to defend itself and provide security in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific region. This is all the more important since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.  

Last week, I asked Secretary Blinken if the Biden administration's plan for conducting over the horizon counterterrorism missions includes using Northwest India as a staging area. I have previously suggested that a base in Northwest India with a quick reaction force (QRF) might be a strategy worth considering. I realize this could provide some major challenges and might be a bridge too far at this time. However, this should not keep us from strengthening a defense partnership with India, and there are several practical ways we can go about doing that.

Providing India with needed military equipment to balance against China and now the Taliban in Afghanistan should be our first step in strengthening a defense partnership with India. Over the past 15 years, the U.S. and India have done $20 billion in defense deals, but this is no longer enough. When the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, and the Afghan Security Forces collapsed, the Taliban were all but gifted with over $80 billion in U.S. military equipment. Further, China has been systematically modernizing its military over the past two decades and has amassed the largest navy on the globe. We must help India address this new paradigm. 

We can do this by concluding the deal with India to purchase 30 armed MQ-9 reaper drones or by helping them expand their fleet of  P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft. Instead of placating adversaries like Iran and sending Tehran planes full of cash, we should be investing in relationships with countries that have reciprocated our friendship.

Another benefit of helping India acquire these highly capable weapons systems is depriving Russia of a pretty big customer. As I’ve written previously, our relationships with India could suffer a setback if they choose to continue with the purchase of defense systems from Russia. We must avoid this outcome if possible.

Deepening a partnership with India makes sense. India is the largest democracy in the world and is our best bet for countering China in the region. India is also in a position to help us contain terrorism in Afghanistan now that we no longer have boots on the ground. We must take full advantage of the opportunities a better and stronger relationship with India can offer our country.

Rep. Mark Green is a physician and combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. He interviewed Saddam Hussein for six hours on the night of his capture. He serves on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

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