Military cooperation between India and the US is a "vibrant, visible and proactive" force behind the transformation of their bilateral relations, a top American diplomat said on Monday.
Robert O Blake, chargé d'affaires at the US embassy in New Delhi, said military exercises by the two countries were bolstering the capability for joint operations to tackle terrorists and clandestine warfare, and the US was keen to sell India a wide array of defence hardware, ranging from radars to submarine rescue vessels.
Addressing Indian military officials at the Army War College here on the theme "US-India Relations: The Making of a Comprehensive Relationship", Blake said: "Without doubt, military cooperation remains one of the most vibrant, visible, and proactive legs powering the transformation of US-India relations."
"There is a growing and, I think, mutual desire to expand defence cooperation," he said, noting this was clear from the increasing frequency of training exercises, personnel exchanges and unit and ship visits.
Pointing out that the "political disconnect that hampered American defence sales to India" was a thing of the past, Blake said the US had sold 12 AN-TPQ/37 Firefinder weapon-locating radars worth $190 million to India. Two of these radars were supplied in July 2003 and two more would soon be deployed.
"The second major deal under negotiation is for the P-3 Orion naval reconnaissance plane. US officials describe it as a '3C-plus', meaning the version that would be sold to India would be equipped with latest avionics, including sensors and computerised command and control and weapons systems," he said.
India will also buy $29 million worth of special equipment to enhance the counter-terrorism capabilities of its special forces. It might also purchase chemical and biological protection equipment and submarine rescue vessels.
"The more the two countries exercise together, the greater the rationale to provide India with compatible equipment, communications and technologies. The Indian military establishment's desire to buy US equipment through the foreign military sales route and US willingness to sell state-of-the-art equipment to India are a happy convergence," Blake said.
With the lifting of sanctions in 2001, only major defence items valued over $14 million require Congressional notice for sale to India.
The "fundamental transformation" of bilateral ties was rooted the commitment of the US and India to political freedom, the fight against terrorism and trans-national threats, like the spread of weapons of mass destruction, drug trade, HIV/AIDS and human trafficking, Blake said.