US ambassador David C. Mulford Wednesday said his country wanted to step up defence cooperation and arms sales to India, which had tripled over a period of one year to touch Rs.770 million ($17.7 million) in 2004.
The trend was set to continue in 2005, with defence sales expected to rise to Rs.2.7 billion ($64 million), Mulford told the first meeting here of the US-India Industry Working Group on defence technology.
"Commercial military sales to India have tripled from Rs.240 million in 2003 to Rs.770 million in 2004 and are projected to surge to Rs.2.7 billion in 2005."
The US had approved over 700 export licenses for direct commercial defence sales to India after President George W. Bush lifted sanctions against India in 2001.
The lifting of sanctions resulted in an increase in the export of controlled dual-use items to India. Licences have been approved for export of 90 percent of dual-use items sought by India, an official statement said.
The working group's meeting was held under the auspices of the High Tech Cooperation Group (HTCG). The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the US-India Business Council (USIBC) organised the meeting.
Maj. Gen. H.S. Sehgal represented India's defence ministry at the meeting.
The HTCG is part of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), a US-India initiative that seeks to promote collaboration between the two sides in high technology, civil space and nuclear activities, and dialogue on missile defence.
Mulford said the US was committed to an enduring relationship with India in all areas -- strategic and military, economic and scientific, educational and cultural.
The HTCG meeting, he said, should identify specific new opportunities for cooperation in defence. As military ties between two countries expanded, the US would seek new opportunities to partner with India.
Besides defence technology, the HTCG looks at cooperation in IT, biotechnology, and nanotechnology.