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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | Jan. 18, 2017

Raisina Dialogue Keynote Address

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Raisina Dialogue
New Delhi, India

January 18, 2017
As Prepared for Delivery


Namaste, and thanks to all of you who have put this great forum together. I’m deeply honored to return to this important venue to discuss ways to make this region a more prosperous and secure part of the world.

It’s safe to say that the Raisina Dialogue is now a flagship conference of geopolitics and geo-economics, and predicated on India’s vital role – not only in the Indian Ocean, but the greater Indo-Asia-Pacific region. What a great accomplishment for a conference in just its second year, and a tremendous opportunity to address the New Normal.

So let me say this about the New Normal: There is a tendency to accept the New Normal as fait accompli, in that the way things are, are fixed in time and place… and the New Normal then becomes the basis for future actions and activities. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t accept this complacent – even pessimistic – view.

I believe the U.S. and India can truly shape the New Normal – indeed, must shape it – because I guarantee our adversaries are trying to do so. More on that later.

Let me now thank the Observer Research Foundation for hosting the 2nd Raisina Dialogue and bringing together such an impressive group of experts from all over the world… so impressive, in fact, that it would take me all day just to mention each of their names.

With that in mind, I’d like to recognize a just few people before getting started:

  • Prime Minister Modi
  • Minister Akbar
  • President Karzai
  • Prime Minister Rudd
  • Prime Minister Harper
  • Foreign Secretary Johnson
  • General Rawat
  • Foreign Secretary Jaishankar
  • Ambassador Verma
  • Fellow flag and general officers
  • Samir Saran
  • Distinguished guests… ladies and gentlemen:

America’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ I think this sentiment applies to the India-U.S. relationship. The tasks before us are to shape the New Normal and uphold the rules-based international order, or what I’ve been calling the Global Operating System. These are huge tasks, but not insurmountable ones. Our approach, by taking the time to work together – to sharpen our tools – is, in my opinion, the right approach.

Among the many other things that Lincoln is famous for, he delivered one of history’s greatest speeches, the Gettysburg Address, in just 2 minutes. Conversely, Julius Caesar delivered one of history’s longest speeches and his best friends killed him. So as to not tempt my good friends here today, I promise I’ll keep Lincoln’s sense of brevity in mind as I deliver my remarks.

Last year, at this very forum, I challenged India and the U.S. to be ambitious together. And together, we’ve built and sharpened some impressive tools to improve our interoperability and defend our common interests to buttress the Global Operating System. This year, we can take advantage of the theme of Multilateralism with Multipolarity to expand cooperation to shape the New Normal.

Next week India will celebrate Republic Day and recognize when its constitution went into full effect marking the move to independence. With India as the world’s largest democracy and the United States as its oldest, we are uniquely poised to foster greater security and prosperity throughout the entire region.
Security and Growth for All in the Region, or “SAGAR”, is Prime Minister Modi’s vision of using India’s economic and military capabilities for the benefit of the entire region.

Prosperity and security are intertwined. Admiral Sunil Lanba, during the Galle Dialogue last November in Sri Lanka, described how disruption to the free flow of trade through the Indian Ocean impacts the entire global economy. Maritime Security Cooperation and collaboration are the keys to harness the Blue Economy. I love the term “Blue Economy” and plan to steal it shamelessly.

Both of our nations share big values and big concerns, and we recognize the supreme importance of the Indo-Asia-Pacific to the future of our nations. Our leaders have affirmed – and I too believe – that the deepening U.S.-India relationship will be the defining strategic partnership of the 21st century.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Modi described bringing countries together on the basis of respect for international law. He articulated better than I ever could that respecting freedom of navigation and adhering to international norms are essential for peace and economic growth.

India has demonstrated a sustained commitment to longstanding, customary international law, the principles of which provide the foundation of the Global Operating System. They give shape to our similar national interests. Namely:

  • the peaceful resolution of disputes;
  • freedom of navigation for military and civilian ships and aircraft;
  • and unimpeded lawful commerce.

These principles are not abstractions, nor are they subject to the whims of any one country. They are not privileges to be granted or withdrawn. They make sense because they have worked for decades to keep the peace while creating prosperous economic conditions to lift more than a billion people out of poverty.

India’s adherence to these principles is worthy of emulation. One key example I’d like to highlight is India's compliance with an arbitral decision regarding a longstanding sea boundary dispute with Bangladesh in 2014. India accepted a ruling it didn’t necessarily agree with.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how responsible nations, and truly great powers, ensure peace and prosperity.

But there are challenges that undermine the Global Operating System here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t call them out.

Urgently, the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ is a clear threat that must be destroyed. The main thrust of the 68 nation coalition's military effort against this group is rightfully in the Middle East and North Africa. But as ISIL is eliminated in these areas, some of the surviving foreign fighters will likely return to the countries from whence they came. What's worse is that they’ll be radicalized and weaponized.

We’ve seen the beginning of this trend in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. It’s not a theory… it’s real. In the past year alone, ISIL has made its murderous intentions clear in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia… and the United States.

It’s clear that ISIL wants to conduct its bloody attacks right here in this country. But so far, ISIL’s plans for operations in India have been thwarted by the diligent work of India’s law enforcement, intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies.

The international community must continue the work to stop them. Neither the U.S. nor India can do it alone. To halt ISIL's cancerous spread, like-minded nations in this region and across the globe must continue to work together. Multinational collaboration – partnership with a purpose – is the treatment to prevent this ISIL disease from metastasizing in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

But ISIL isn't our only immediate threat in the vast Indo-Asia-Pacific. North Korea stands out as the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons in this century. Now I want you to stop for a minute and really think about this. Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong-un, is a recipe for disaster.

I know there's some debate about the miniaturization advancements made by Pyongyang. But PACOM must be prepared to fight tonight, so I take them at their word. I must assume that their claims are true – their aspirations certainly are.

Vain, vicious, and volatile dictators are nothing new in the long, dark history of mankind… but what is new is a vain, vicious, and volatile dictator with his fingers on a nuclear trigger. This is why we must consider every possible step to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies and partners throughout the region.

As former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry famously said, we have to deal with North Korea “as it is, not as we wish it to be.” And today, it poses a very real threat to the U.S. and our friends and allies in the region.

Other significant challenges are posed by a revanchist Russia and an increasingly assertive China. Both Moscow and Beijing have choices to make. They can choose to disregard the rules-based international order or they can contribute to it as responsible stakeholders. The U.S. obviously prefers they choose to act responsibly.

No one, including me, wants conflict. I've been loud and clear that I prefer cooperation so that we can collectively address global security challenges.

But I've also been loud and clear that we will not allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally – no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea.
I say this often but it's worth repeating: we will cooperate where we can, and be ready to confront where we must.

There are those who question the motives for the increasingly cooperative relationship between the U.S. and India. They say that it’s to balance against and contain China. That’s just simply not true. Our relationship stands on its own merits.

I can proudly report on the upward trajectory of cooperation between India and the U.S.: that trajectory is so upward it’s through the roof. With its commitment to improving its defense capabilities and modernizing its forces, India has demonstrated it has skin in the game. And just last month Secretary of Defense Carter met with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and designated India as a 'Major Defense Partner'. In recent history, our two nations have sharpened many tools that will improve our efforts to defend the Global Operating System.

The sharpest of our tools include the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, or DTTI, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, or LEMOA, and our robust multilateral military cooperation.

First, DTTI is creating closer defense and industrial ties between our two nations. This initiative allows us to take advantage of opportunities to strengthen our defense through collaboration by focusing on the larger strategic picture rather than succumbing to old-think and ancient bureaucratic obstacles. This framework has allowed us to work together on technology to improve jet engines and aircraft carriers, to name just two examples.

The LEMOA allows both nations – India and the U.S. – to assist each other in ways such as refueling and replenishment, especially for disaster response whether in the region or elsewhere. This agreement provides us flexibility by increasing our operational endurance and reach. Both of those things are requirements in dealing effectively with the challenges that exist in our world – from the critical challenges that I’ve already mentioned, to responding to natural disasters, to the day-to-day work of maintaining maritime security. This is one of three foundational agreements that add real value to our defense cooperation.

But we can’t rest on our laurels. I’m eager to continue our work on other foundational agreements that will make our armed forces even more interoperable, such as a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, and Basic Exchange and the Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation, or BECA.

Perhaps the most visible of our tools, with a razor sharp edge, is our increasingly robust multilateral military cooperation. Our interoperability is improving fast as we lash up our platforms and exercise them together on a regular basis.

Two shining examples of this close relationship are the Yudh Abhyas and Malabar exercises.

Yudh Abhyas is an annual Theater Security Cooperation bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific. Our two countries take turns hosting the training. Last September, about 250 soldiers from India and about 250 soldiers from the U.S. worked together at Chaubatia Military Station in Ranikhet, India. Their training improved the ability of our forces to work together to support Peacekeeping/Stability Operations and Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response to support United Nations operations worldwide.

By working together to improve interoperability, both militaries are better prepared to assist in disasters such as the earthquake in Nepal back in 2015. I’m very proud of what these soldiers accomplished during their training and look forward to hosting it in the U.S. later this year.

The Malabar exercise series is training that I personally participated in last century. I’m happy to see that the 21st iteration of this exercise now includes Japan, and will take place here in the Indian Ocean next year. Since its inception, Malabar has grown dramatically. Its complexity and realism challenge our most advanced platforms including aircraft carriers, submarines, and of course the mighty P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

As someone who’s spent his entire career flying in maritime patrol aircraft, I can confidently report that the Poseidon is the real deal. Working together with other nations who have this game-changing platform will help us to unleash its full potential.
Yudh Abhyas and Malabar are just two exercises of many that hone our interoperability and cooperation. Indian military forces regularly spend time in the U.S. as well. From the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC exercise in Hawaii, to Red Flag in Alaska, to Vajrah Prahar in Washington State, our exercise schedule is robust. It truly spans the entire breadth of PACOM… from Hollywood to Bollywood.

Ladies and gentlemen, at the beginning of my remarks, I mentioned I would keep Lincoln’s sense of brevity in mind during this talk. Now I’ll make good on that promise and get on with it, so that you can get on with it. Think of it as another way to build trust.

As much as I’d always like to sharpen our proverbial axe faster because we never know when events will force us to use it… I really like what I see. And I see two mature stakeholders working hard to uphold the Global Operating System to grow prosperity and increase security throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific. As our cooperation deepens and interoperability improves, our tools will become razor-sharp, and our shared challenges more manageable.

I’ve covered a lot of ground in my remarks. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected we must continue to strive to maintain security. The sensible way is to stand together with those nations who stand for our shared principles – those who play by the rules of the Global Operating System. No challenge will be too great for this sort of cooperation.

Thank you very much.


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