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Business News/ News / World/  India, US discussing more than a dozen projects in defence

India, US discussing more than a dozen projects in defence

Need to work together to make defence trade easier, says US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs

A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with US President Barack Obama. Photo: PTIPremium
A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with US President Barack Obama. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: India and the US are discussing more than a dozen production and development projects in defence, a US official said on Wednesday.

Urging closer collaboration in defence, Puneet Talwar, US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said the US has been modernizing its defence exports licensing system and supporting the bilateral defence trade and technology initiative (DTTI) to reduce bureaucratic burdens and expedite the sharing of technology.

Talwar, who is on a four-day visit to India, was speaking at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. He is heading an inter-agency delegation, including officials from the US state department, the Pentagon and the US Pacific Command, to co-chair a political-military dialogue with officials from foreign and defence ministries.

Talwar’s visit comes less than two months ahead of a visit to India by US President Barack Obama, who last month accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

“We have been discussing more than a dozen co-production and co-development projects with India, and we hope to move on some of these going forward. Still, let’s not forget that our work is unfinished. We need to work together to make defence trade easier. We should do this because of the tremendous security benefits that strengthening our defence ties brings to our people, to this region, and to the world," Talwar said in his speech. “To us, our defence relationship with India is not transactional; it is an investment in our future together. We want to move beyond a buyer-seller relationship, towards one of co-development and co-production, where both our nations will benefit."

Defence cooperation has been identified by both nations as the next big idea to transform the India-US relationship that has warmed considerably in the past decade and a half with three US presidents—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama—visiting India between the years 2000 and 2010. Since 2008, bilateral defence trade has grown from near zero to $10 billion, Talwar noted.

A report in The New York Times last month said India was the world’s largest buyer of weapons, accounting for 14% of global arms imports, nearly three times as many as China, and that the US had surpassed traditional military hardware source—Russia—as India’s biggest arms supplier.

The warming of India-US ties came in the early 1990s with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and India reorienting its foreign and economic policies. The 2008 India-US civil nuclear pact significantly altered the relationship, but India’s civil nuclear liability law passed by Parliament in 2010 has stymied the prospects of US companies constructing atomic power plants in India.

India had short-listed five of 17 hi-tech items of military hardware offered by the US, the Press Trust of India reported earlier this week. These include naval guns, mine-scattering anti-tank vehicles, unmanned aerial surveillance system, Javelin missiles, and aircraft landing system for carriers, the report said.

One of the ways the US is moving the defence relationship forward was by modernizing the American defence exports licensing system. “Over the past seven years, the average time to process a licence for India has dropped almost 40%," Talwar said. “And it’s important to emphasize that less than 1% of licences destined for India are denied, a figure that is on par or better than many of our closest partners."

Increased India-US defence cooperation also helps the economies of both countries, Talwar said. In the Indo-Pacific region, both India and the US countries have key and complementary interests, Talwar said, adding that both sides “share a vision where all parties pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea".

The reference was to China’s maritime disputes with its smaller neighbours in the South China Sea with the Asian giant imposing unilateral restrictions on the passage of ships and aircraft through the disputed zone. “Securing these sea lanes peacefully is crucial to ensuring that international commerce can continue to flow without disruption," Talwar said, almost mirroring India’s view on freedom of navigation.

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Updated: 03 Dec 2014, 11:55 PM IST
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