Remarks by Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Indian Minister of Defense Sitharaman to the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman; Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Department Of Defence Production, India; Ken Juster, U.S. Ambassador to India; John Rood, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Lieutenant General Charles Hooper, Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency; Richard Spencer, Secretary, U.S. Navy; Michael Griffin, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering; Joe Kernan, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Staff


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS: Well, Madame Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Excellency, good to have you back here. Ambassador Sarna and members of the delegation, welcome to the Pentagon. In some cases, welcome back to the Pentagon.

But Minister, it's a particular pleasure to welcome you on this official visit to the United States, and on behalf of our department and all of our service members, thank you for paying your nation's respects at Arlington National Cemetery this morning. We're grateful. Your presence at the wreath-laying made clear that U.S.-Indian military relations are not defined by brittle or empty words, but by the human aspects of partnership, steeped in recognition of our nations' respective sacrifices in the cause of peace and friendship in freedom, as President Eisenhower said during his 1959 visit to India, and also, for our diverse histories and cultures, and for our shared principles, values and respect for the rules-based international order.

The U.S.-India relationship is a natural partnership between the world’s oldest and the world's largest democracies. As U.S. Senator Chris Coons recently wrote, "We share the same values and hold similar outlooks, more often than not." Nowhere is that connection more apparent than in our two constitutions, which both begin with the phrase, "We, the people."

Since our democracies' foundings, the United States and India, in Prime Minister Modi's words, "have overcome the hesitations of history, carrying forward a legacy of friendship, and making clear there is no contradiction between strategic autonomy and strategic partnership, a view that has endured through multiple U.S. administrations.

Minister, I note this is our fourth meeting between you and I in little more than a year. In that time, we have made meaningful progress advancing U.S.-India defense cooperation, most notably with your nation's hosting of September's inaugural 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi. The ministerial served as a tangible demonstration of our shared vision for a safe, secure, prosperous and free Indo-Pacific, underpinned by respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all nations.

Today, I reiterate U.S. appreciation for India's leadership as a stabilizing force in pursuit of that vision, promoting peace and security across the region and the globe. The 2+2 Ministerial also made clear our commitment to further bolster our major defense partnership. Today, we build on that momentum, as we work to implement our agreements from September, including our Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.

In closing, Madame Minister, I echo your recent sentiment to see our partnership grow and reach its full potential as we work together today and in the future to build, bridge and strengthen our military ties. Thank you for coming. I look forward to our dinner this evening at the Freer Gallery, and I wish you safe travels as you venture on to our Defense Innovation unit in California, and our Aloha State in the coming days.

Madame Minister?

MINISTER OF DEFENSE NIRMALA SITHARAMAN: Thank you very much. Secretary Mattis, it's a pleasure to be here on our first official visit to the U.S. as defense minister of India, and to meet you again. I sincerely thank you for the warm welcome, and for (inaudible). It's tended to (inaudible), and I'm looking forward to our meeting, and to the other engagements during this trip.

Allow me to state, Excellency, the inaugural 2+2 meeting in September was a landmark in our relations, and has set the stage for strategic-level consultations between us. The coordination of a major defense partner country's status during there has been very well received in the media. The bilateral meetings during the 2+2 Dialogue in New Delhi, and during the ADMM-Plus in Singapore in October were, indeed, very positive and productive.

I'm happy to carry forward our discussion today, and to accord greater momentum to the dialog and partnership between our two countries. Our bilateral relationship continues to be very strong. Several high-level engagements, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Vice President Pence, in Singapore and on the margins of the East Asian summit have underscored our mutual desire to move positively and quickly. Regular high-level exchanges help in steering the relationship forward. They are an indication of the depth and quality of our bilateral partnership, as well as our mutual desire to work closely on a range of bilateral and global issues.

We deeply acknowledge the warmth shown by you, and your responsiveness to India's sensitivities. At the same time, it is also indicative of our desire and effort in creating an even more robust relationship than before. It is based on our shared values. We all agree that the India-U.S. relationship in the field of defense has acquired the dimensions of a strategic partnership over the last decade. Especially over the past three to four years, we have made considerable progress. Our relations are based on common democratic values, enduring, strong political and popular support in both our countries. There is a growing mutual trust, and also, the confidence in our defense partnership, which all bodes very well for the future. In this direction, we are encouraged by the strategic importance attached to the India-U.S. defense relationship in the new U.S. National Security Strategy.

A strong foundation has been made for the India-U.S. defense relations over the years. India sees the U.S. as an important partner in defense. We have good military-to-military cooperation, defense consultations, scientific and R&D work, defense trade, co-production and co-development, and industry collaboration.

Excellency, I would once again like to thank you for investing your time and efforts in advancing our bilateral relations, and being such a valued partner. I look forward to spending some time on specifics of the issues that we have been engaged in, building on the discussions and outcomes of the 2+2 meetings. I'm confident that during today's meeting, we would endeavor to take forward our bilateral defense cooperation further.

Now, I request the members of my delegation to introduce themselves so that we can carry our discussions forward. Thank you.

SECRETARY AJAY KUMAR: I'm Ajay Kumar, secretary of defense for (inaudible).

(UNKNOWN): I'm (inaudible)

(UNKNOWN): I'm (inaudible) Embassy.

(UNKNOWN): (inaudible)

(UNKNOWN): Secretary of defense (inaudible)

SEC. MATTIS: Very good.

(UNKNOWN): (inaudible), Your Excellency. I'm the additional secretary in the Ministry of Defense.

SEC. MATTIS: And we'll introduce our side. Ambassador?

AMBASSADOR KEN JUSTER: Ken Juster, the ambassador to India

SEC. MATTIS: All right.

SECRETARY JOHN ROOD: John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES HOOPER: Lieutenant General Charles Hooper, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

SECRETARY RICHARD SPENCER: Richard Spencer, secretary of the Navy.

SECRETARY MICHAEL GRIFFIN: Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

SECRETARY JOE KERNAN: Joe Kernan, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

SEC. MATTIS: And if the members of the press will excuse us now, we'll get down to work. Thank you very much for coming out today.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Mr. Secretary? The White House recently reached out to Pakistan requesting their support of a potential peace talks in Afghanistan. Given that effort, do you think that the department has more confidence in Pakistan's willingness to help with the peace process there?

SEC. MATTIS: You know, we are looking for every responsible nation to support peace in the sub-continent, and across this war in Afghanistan. It's gone on now, its approaching 40 years; 40 years is enough. It's time for everyone to get onboard, support the United Nations, support Prime Minister Modi, support President Ghani and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here. So we are on that track, and it's diplomatically-led, as it should be, and we'll do our best to protect the Afghan people. That's a diplomatic effort to end the war.

Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what is the legacy of George H.W. Bush? And Madame Minister, why did you ultimately go with the S-400 system?

SEC. MATTIS: We need to really get down to work here. We've got work to do, and a full plate, as you heard from both my remarks and the minister's. We'll work everything out, trust me.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.

SEC. MATTIS: Thank you.