Senate approves India-friendly Ashton Carter as new defence chief

Washington: The US Senate has confirmed President Barack Obama's nominee for defence secretary Ashton B. Carter who has vowed to prioritise the steady growth of India-US strategic partnership.

Carter, 60, a former deputy defence secretary who would replace Chuck Hagel as Obama's fourth Pentagon chief, was approved by a vote of 93 to 5 Thursday. Hagel resigned last November reportedly under pressure.

"With his decades of experience, Ash will help keep our military strong as we continue the fight against terrorist networks, modernise our alliances, and invest in new capabilities to keep our armed forces prepared for long-term threats," said Obama after the Senate vote.

"We have the strongest military in history of the world, and with Secretary Carter at the Pentagon and our troops serving bravely around the world, we're going to keep it that way," he added.

During his confirmation hearing last week, Carter, who as Pentagon No. 2 launched the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) with India, vowed to lean-forward to expand DTTI with additional co-production and co-development activities.

"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 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.

Defence plays a vital role in US-India relations, which includes a robust series of military exchanges and exercises, a strong track record on defence trade, and increasingly close consultations on regional security issues, Carter said.

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.

Carter said he will also "continue to find ways to strengthen our military-to-military relationship by expanding the scope and complexity of our exercises, and ensure the consistency of our engagement."

Carter said he would "prioritise exchanges at all levels of our military, and encourage frequent high-level visits."

He would also "continue to look for ways to expand upon our maritime security relationship and identify specific areas for increased cooperation, including in the Asia-Pacific."

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