New Delhi: Defence ties between India and the US are expected to stay strong with the change of guard at White House and key understandings achieved at the recent two plus two dialogue could be key to expanding ties for which a firm bedrock is in place.

Besides the ongoing discussions for weapon sales — ranging from anti air missiles to armed drones and naval guns — the two sides have vowed to take forward cooperation in the defence and strategic domain with third nations in the region.

With an increasingly aggressive China, this trilateral cooperation will gain importance in the Indian Ocean Region. Indian policy makers foresee an increasing militarisation of the Belt and Road initiative outposts in the region, leading to changes of friction and competition where a partnership with the US could be vital.

Analysts believe the two plus two dialogue can serve as a good starting point for taking forward ties with the Biden administration. “The joint statement of the recently held two plus two ministerial dialogue will prove to be a ‘reference document’ for the Biden administration for continued enhancement of the defence and security relationship between the US and India,” said Captain Vikram Mahajan (retd), director, Aerospace and Defence at USISPF.

While the Trump administration had opened up clearances for weapon systems like armed drones to India on an expedited route, the reluctance to share technology kept industry ties at a distance when compared with Russia or France. In particular, the US side could not go ahead on sharing jet engine technology, for which a working group had also been set up, enabling France and the UK to make inroads. If a fresh administration is able to look at things with new perspective, a major defence industrial partnership to co-develop weapon systems could be a path to push things to the next level.

The broader understanding in New Delhi is that there is an alignment of interests between the two nations that does not heavily depend on domestic politics. “There has been bipartisan alignment on the national interest of both democracies to enhance US-India relationship especially in defence. This has been upheld by governments over the past two decades, irrespective of change in regimes,” Mahajan said.