The U.S. and India are moving ahead with two joint research projects for the military that officials hope will set the stage for greater defense cooperation in the years ahead.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar are signing a defense agreement Wednesday. It's part of a broader U.S. effort to improve what has been a rocky relationship between the two countries.

The U.S. views India as a key ally in the Asia Pacific, in part as a countermeasure to China and a lynchpin in America's effort to deepen military and diplomatic ties with countries at Beijing's doorstep.

Carter acknowledged the difficulties on both sides in breaking through the red tape to achieve more development cooperation, but said things are moving forward.