Later this month, the United States and India will hold their first-ever tri-service military exercise — Tiger Triumph — off the coast of southern India. This exercise will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. All three Indian military services will be alongside the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. This is the latest example of how the United States is expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
“The American people and the whole world have a stake in the Indo-Pacific’s peace and prosperity,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in 2018. “It’s why the Indo-Pacific must be free and open.”
Since the Trump administration began in 2017, the United States has invested more than $1.1 billion in security cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners.
In addition to the Tiger Triumph exercise, the United States has carried out the first U.S.-ASEAN joint military exercises in Southeast Asia to practice naval operations and participated in the first joint sail with Japan, India and the Philippines to ensure access to international waters in the South China Sea. In September, the United States, India and Japan participated in the trilateral Malabar exercise to expand interoperability and maritime security.
These exercises are in addition to the annual 10-nation Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training exercise to counter piracy and smuggling.
This training and the joint exercises are part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, which supports a free and open Indo-Pacific.
What is security cooperation?
Security cooperation is about more than national defense:
Piracy and thefts have dropped by 70 percent in the Bay of Bengal thanks to the Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard using boats donated by the U.S. as well as U.S. training.
Illegal fishing, drug smuggling and human trafficking are targeted through joint training with the U.S., Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives that trains and equips navies and coast guards.
Access to natural resources is preserved through freedom-of-navigation operations that ensure countries in the Indo-Pacific can explore their territorial waters. Beijing’s repeated provocative actions to assert illegal maritime claims is inhibiting countries from accessing over $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves, while contributing to instability and the risk of conflict.
As Vice President Pence said at the 2018 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, “We will prosper together. We will be secure together. We will continue to grow closer together as partners and as friends in a free and open Indo-Pacific.”