NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 27:
Although Washington has given no categorical assurances to New Delhi on the supply of F-16 fighters to Pakistan, it has gone a step ahead and offered top-of-the-line military hardware to India including the Patriot anti-missile system, C-130 stretched medium lift transport aircraft, P-3C Orion maritime surveillance planes—and even F-16 fighters.
Indian Ambassador to US Ranendra ‘‘Ronen’’ Sen was in the Capital this week and discussed the US offer—including the proposed US arms deal to Pakistan—with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Sen also met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Government sources said that hardware offer will come up when US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld comes to the sub-continent for a visit. Rumsfeld is tentatively scheduled to visit India on December 9-10 and will also travel to Pakistan.
Even though the UPA government will be under pressure from its Left allies and the BJP to oppose US arms sale to Pakistan, it has given ‘‘positive signals’’ to the US hardware offer to India. An influential section of the establishment believes the challenge before India is not to keep objecting to arms sale to Pakistan. Instead, it argues that New Delhi should engage the US for the best military technology and get out of the hyphenated equation.
After all, even at the height of the Cold War, Rajiv Gandhi broke the barrier and got engines and flight control systems for the LCA from the US in 1980s.
It is learnt that the UPA government has given Sen the clearance to organise a detailed classified presentation of the Patriot system from manufacturers Raytheon soon and has expressed willingness to look at the C-130 Hercules and P-3C Orion offer.
However, the government is not keen on the F-16 fighters as it already has Mirage-2000H, MiG-29s and Su-30MKI as multi-role fighters.
It is understood that F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin approached the Indian Embassy in Washington with an offer after New Delhi objected to F-16 sales to Pakistan. Lockheed Martin’s representatives said India was cleared by Pentagon for supply of F-16s, P-3C Orion and C-130J-30 stretched Hercules transport aircraft.
Even though US started offering military hardware to India in 2002, it has so far only supplied ANTPQ firefinders though the offer of P-3C Orion was made during the period and a demonstration flight was held at INS Hamla in Goa.
While there were hitches in Raytheon sharing the classified manuals with New Delhi on the Patriot system in 2002, Washington is understood to have given a green signal to the company for the anti-missile defence system.
Also, the Hercules transport aircraft offer is significant as Delhi is looking for a medium lift plane. The Hercules is the only one in its category with neither Russia nor European Union having anything similar.
OVERVIEW OF THE EQUIPMENT OFFERED
- ‘Patriot anti-missile defence system • Tackles aircraft, tactical and Cruise missiles • Part of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership stage II • UPA govt now wants Raytheon to give a presentation on the system
- C130J-30 hercules • Only medium-lift plane in its class that carries tanks and troops to battle • UPA govt is positive about it and will take up the offer
- F-16 plane • A multi-role fighter with advanced avionics that is now being offered to Pakistan • Lockheed-Martin has also made an offer to India • The UPA govt will not take the offer as it has Su-30 MKI and Mirage 2000
- P-3C orion aircraft • A long-range maritime surveillance platform, with anti- submarine capabilities • Offered two years ago, the Navy now wants it and the UPA govt may take up the offer