Renewing the pact is seen as the high point of US defence secretary Carter's three-day visit that began on Tuesday
New Delhi: India and the US on Wednesday extended a framework pact for defence cooperation for another decade amid US attempts to rebalance its ties in Asia to check the rise of China and dissipate mounting tensions in the South China Sea.
The 10-year defence framework agreement was signed by visiting US defence secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parikkar in New Delhi after formal talks between the two sides. Renewing the pact is seen as the high point of Carter’s three-day visit that began on Tuesday with a visit to the port of Visakhapatnam.
Confirmation of the agreement being signed came from defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar, who tweeted: “Defence minister @manoharparrikar & US #secdef Ash Carter sign 2015 Framework Agreement for India-US Defence Coop."
Details of the agreement were not immediately released by the ministry.
The pact was first signed in 2005 by former defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld. It marked a significant milestone in relations—a far cry from the Cold War days when the two nations viewed each other with suspicion.
The pact is expected to support stronger cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, including deeper maritime cooperation and increased opportunities in technology and trade.
Also on Wednesday, India and the US sealed an agreement to jointly develop protective gear for soldiers against biological and chemical warfare, and another on building generators, Reuters reported, quoting defence officials.
The projects were cleared as Carter held talks with Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, to expand security ties. The US has become one of the top sources of weapons for the Indian armed forces in recent years, leaving behind one-time trusted partner Russia.
While the two projects are modest in scale, India and the US are also exploring collaboration at the higher end of the technology curve, Carter told reporters.
“We have big ambitions, and jet engines, aircraft carrier technology are big projects that we’re working very hard on," he said.
The projects on protective clothing for soldiers as well developing the next-generation power source for the battlefield will each have $1 million in funding, shared equally by the two sides, a US defence official said.
“We’ve negotiated texts, we’ve agreed to texts and they’ll be signed into effect at the end of this month. We went from flash to bang, meaning from the joint statement in January to agreed-to and signed texts in just under five months," the official said.
The other two projects under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative that Carter himself launched before his elevation as defence secretary relate to Raven mini-UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones) and surveillance modules for the C-130J military transport plane.
India is also eyeing US aircraft launch technology for a carrier it plans to build to replace an ageing British warship. The two sides have set up a working group to explore cooperation, and the defence official added that military officials will meet later this month in the US.
“We have the preeminent aircraft carriers in the world. They are excited about possible collaboration. There are multiple areas of possible collaboration. It’s a huge platform," the US official said.
In Carter’s meeting with Modi, the Prime Minister “expressed hope that US companies, including those in the defence manufacturing sector, would actively participate in the ‘Make in India’ initiative and set up manufacturing units in India with transfer of technology and links to the global supply chain.
“Carter conveyed that India was an important strategic partner for the US. The US policy of rebalance in Asia-Pacific compliments India’s Act East Policy. The US authorities are committed to the expeditious implementation of decisions reached between the leaders of the two countries. In this context, the US is encouraging companies to set up manufacturing units in India with transfer of technology," an Indian government statement said.
“Both sides also exchanged views on regional issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, and the recent developments in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region," it added.