The US wants to dispel the notion that it is an unreliable partner concerning defence deals. According to sources, “The US agrees that at the political level there is a signal that it is willing to address this issue.”
New Delhi has acknowledged that the US remains the source of some big technologies, therefore, the two countries are moving towards taking defence ties beyond the realm of joint military exercises.
“India provides a very good platform for outsourcing some component manufacture or joint production,” the sources said.
As part of the forthcoming visit of defence minister Pranab Mukherjee to Washington next week, an agreement for cooperation in defence hardware and joint ventures is expected to be inked.
Mr Mukherjee’s visit, perhaps, could provide some indication to Washington that India is interested in some of the high-end aircraft the US is willing to sell and co-produce with India, said sources.
While defence ministry officials made it clear that the minister was not “going with a shopping list” during his weeklong visit on June 27 to that country, the plans of Indian Air force to purchase 126 medium range combat aircraft, will come up for discussions, they said.
The project had not yet reached the request for proposal (RFP) stage, with some new dimensions emerging with the US offering to sell high technology aircraft to India for the first time, officials pointed out.
Mr Mukherjee will visit the US Pacific Command in Hawaii for a live demonstration of advanced anti-missile defence systems. Apart from discussing and demonstrating anti-missile defense systems, the key US aim in taking Mr Mukherjee to Hawaii will be to remove mistrust in US-India strategic relations, sources said.
In another pending deal, New Delhi has conveyed to Washington that India is not particularly impressed with the PAC-3 missile unit offered with the two-tier US anti-missile defence system, on the grounds that it is too slow for the very short reaction period required in the sub-continent, especially with regard to neighboring Pakistan.
The United States embassy officials told FE that the US administration was upbeat and open about developing tie-up with India on sales and transfer of technology in strategic arms field and disclosed for the first time that since January 2002, the United States arms and systems sales to India had touched almost a $1 biLLIon.
“So far 1,320 licences for arms hardware worth $300 million and 156 agreements worth more than $688 million had been authorised,” the officials said. “With the state department going fully electronic by year end, we expect arms sales licence clearance to be shorter than present 14 to 15 calender days,” they added.
Declaring that the US applied same arms sales licensing procedures to all countries including allies, embassy officials said that Washington was insisting no change in end use and no re-transfer of technology to third countries without the US approval.
Major United States armament firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing are vying for India plans to acquire 126 medium range combat aircraft.
Top American general, Lt-Gen Jeffrey B Kohler, who is the director of Pentagon’s defence security cooperation agency (DSCA), earlier this month gave a detailed presentation to senior Indian Air Force and ministry of defence officials in the US on F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft and informed the Indians of the basic capabilities of both aircraft.
Gen Kohler is reported to have said that the F-16 and F-18 fighters being offered to India were the latest versions and not ‘off-the-shelf’ stock like those being supplied to Pakistan.