It was in 2015 when the India Rapid Reaction Cell was launched in Pentagon. The aim of launching this was to strengthen the defence parternership and make it crucial to the future of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
Not only has the India Rapid Reaction Cell been shunted out of the Pentagon, its strength has reportedly been reduced from six officers to just two.
According to the officials, the Indian office will now be placed six miles away from the building of pentagon. This move was setteled on 1st Nov. Above all, in the vast bureaucracy that is the Pentagon, the India cell signalled New Delhi’s importance as a defence partner and a major buyer of US equipment. Keith Webster, director of Pentagon’s office of international cooperation, led the team as it worked on all ongoing initiatives, especially those under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). The idea was to ramp up the “operational tempo,” he had said then.
Webster was deeply knowledgeable about India’s complexities. He was also patient but most importantly, he enjoyed the complete support of Ash Carter, the former defence secretary and Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defence. The Carter-Kendall-Webster trio worked seamlessly and was effective in pushing the India relationship forward. It was Carter’s idea to create the first ever country specific cell to focus the mind and overcome the usual bureaucratic paralysis that can impede the best of intentions. Carter, Kendall and Webster are all gone and it seems the India cell become an orphan no senior official wanted to embrace. To be sure, defence secretary Jim Mattis has been extremely vocal and positive on India but it seems after him there is no senior management person to push the whole panoply of initiatives.
Mattis has tried hard to shield India from the dreaded sanctions law called CAATSA by lobbying for a waiver from the US Congress.
Read our arcticle on CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) to get more ground on how it all started.
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