ATHENS, Greece —
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrived here today for meetings with Greek defense officials.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is being hosted by Greek navy Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff. The two men and their staffs will discuss ways to increase cooperation between the two already close NATO allies.
Greece is a member of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Greek forces are also cooperating in the refugee crisis that affects the nations of the Mediterranean Sea.
Both countries would like to see greater cooperation moving forward, defense officials said.
The chairman will leave Greece and travel to New Delhi to attend the two-plus-two meetings there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Indian Minister of External Affairs Shushma Swaraj, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be leading the meetings.
“India is one of our premier security partners and an important and influential global leader,” Dunford said to press traveling with him. “Our nations are united by shared values and a commitment to freedom. The Two-plus-Two presents an historic opportunity to develop our growing partnership and to explore ways of enhancing our security cooperation.”
India is the only non-treaty ally with whom the United States has this form of discussion, officials said.
A senior administration official speaking on background put the meeting in perspective: “[Pompeo’s] travel in tandem with Secretary Mattis is a strong indication of the deepening strategic partnership between the United States and India, and of India’s emergence as an important security provider in the region,” the official said. “India’s central role in our National Security Strategy is enshrined in the President’s National Security Strategy as well as the administration’s South Asia and Indo-Pacific strategies.”
Officials said the U.S. would like to see increased cooperation with India and would like to explore ways to “operationalize” India’s unique status as a Major Defense Partner.
The U.S. would like to see defense trade grow with India and would like to see an expansion and broadening of the exercise program between the two nations, officials said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)