Washington: Impressed by the Indian Army's successful counter-terrorism operations, the US Army Chief has proposed joint training between the armies of the two countries.
Noting that there is much to learn between the militaries of the two countries, US Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno called for joint training to benefit from India's experiences in counter-insurgency in a tough environment and difficult terrain.
"We would love to do some joint training in the mountainous environment, because what the Indian Army has learned over the years, we would love to share what we learned about counter-insurgency and compare experiences and see how we can learn from each other and how we can direct that to use in the future, so for me it is something that is important," Odierno told PTI in an interview.
Odierno, 58, during a rare trip to India late last month, met his Indian counterpart General Bikram Singh besides holding meetings with Defence Minister A K Antony and visiting the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur.
Highly impressed by the Indian military's successful counter-insurgency operations, he said, the US would like to learn from the Indian experience as to how to fight terrorists in a tough environment and difficult terrain.
When asked if the US would like to have joint exercises in Jammu and Kashmir where the terrain is difficult like that of Afghanistan, Odierno said he would like to look at that.
Odierno said that this is something that the US may be interested in but still need to take a look at by sending people to train in these types of environments.
"I think, we would like to look at...we send may be send some people to learn how you train and operate in those environment and those are kind of had some initial discussions on...much more has to be done. It is things like that we would be interested in," he said.
"Everybody recognises, India has so much in common with the US and that it is important for us to sustain a strong long-lasting relationship," the US Army Chief of Staff said.
"It is important for us to sustain a long-term relationship of one that is equal, one that respects each other's strategic autonomy, but that one that enables us to learn from each other to develop together, to deal with many of the issues that we face around the world," he said.
Indian and US troops have already held joint exercises in the past in the mountainous Ladakh region in 2003.
During his visit to the Northern Command he gained firsthand knowledge of India's counter-terrorism and counter- insurgency operations, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Northern Command has the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and the Nagrota-based 16 Corps which look after the counter- insurgency operations in the state.
Last month's visit was Odierno's second trip to India and the first as the Army Chief of Staff. The last time he visited India was in 2005/2006 along with then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in his capacity as her military adviser.
"As I travelled with the Secretary of State, she was there to reinforce how important the relationship between the two large democracies of the world was. And I think, this is something that has been ongoing for some years now," he said.
Recollecting the words of President Barack Obama that the US-India relationship is one of the most important strategic relationships that the US has, Odierno said in most of the important relationships foundation is strong on military to military ties.
"And I think, as we move ahead, it is important for us to recognise that we have much in common. I think because of the long term relationship we had of the US sending its officers to India for training and India sending officers to the US for training, it is just the first sign of how close we are."
Fresh from his India trip, the top American General said over the last 10 years, militaries of the two countries have been doing a lot of the same things, operating in harsh environments and conducting counter-insurgency operations.
"So we have a lot in common, a lot to learn from each other. I think, as we look ahead, we want to build from that common relationship that I think we have in our common experiences," he noted.
Odierno said the US military can also learn from the Indians on how they protect their long border.
"We do not quite have the same issues in the US. However, what we can learn from them, is the techniques that they use to protect their sovereignty and those techniques can be used by us as we might have to conduct operations in the future no matter where it might be, against whoever it might be there is a lot of lessons to be learnt," he said.
"It is my belief that not only with India but with all our partners it is important that it must be a community of nations together who work to fight terrorism. I think the more relationships that we can build who have common objectives about combating terrorism, is really important," Odierno said.
"I think, as we look forward, that would be important... that we work with India and many other nations involved," he added.
When asked if he sees India and US working/fighting together post 2014 against terrorists, Odierno said this is a political decision.
"I think, that is a political decision. I think that that is a decision that be made if it is seen in our country in the best interest. But I certainly believe, we can certainly share, lessons learnt, information, regarding terrorism. I think that is important as we face challenges in the future," he asserted.
Responding to a question on the recent Chinese incursions inside the Indian territories, he said, he was given the impression that this was a routine matter and things are under control.
"The impression I got talking to the Indian leadership (that this) was something fairly a routine (thing), something that they thought was very much routine actions among countries. There was good dialogue, you know, under good control and lot of restrain shown, and a lot of discussion. I think that's the impression I took from my conversations," he said.
Odierno said the US is willing to provide all help as the Indian Army embarks on the ambitious modernisation programme.
Modernisation of the Indian military also figured in his talks with the Indian leaders during his India visit, as the US General shared his thoughts on capabilities and on things like C-17, apache helicopters, how does the US use terrain equivalent to what India face.
Odierno said when he left India, he was significantly impressed by the true professionalism of the Indian Army.
"It is clear that they are focused on the right things. They are focused. They are having a disciplined force. They learn. They constantly adapt. To me that confidence and commitment is important and for me it was very impressive," he said.
"When you understand the conditions that they are operating in, especially in the Northern Command and have difficulties created by the terrain and the environment itself, it takes a very disciplined force and professional leadership. I think, I was impressed throughout my visit with the professional leadership that I saw," Odierno said.
"What I promised General Singh is that I will be as transparent as possible in providing them the assistance that we are allowed to share with, we will try to work as hard as we can so that they can acquire the best technology possible. We think that it is in the best interest of both," he said.
However, he acknowledged that sharing of some of the technologies sometimes is going to be a hindrance.
"What I would suggest that you have to prioritise what is most important and then my suggestion is that you have to dedicate yourself to long-term modernisation programme and also include the life-cycle cost to them. What that means is the ability to sustain over a long period of time," he said, when asked about modernisation efforts of the Indian military.
Odierno during his meetings in India had also talked about the importance of the US investment in cyber sphere.
"As we look as the warfare continues to evolve and part of that evolution is the new areas where our adversaries, where they try to get advantages, we have to learn how to operate those environments; cyber being one of them; space has been one for a while.
"So in my mind it is important as you look at the future that you have to understand the capabilities you need to operate under those environments. So we had initial discussions," he said.