US official in India to push defence sales

US official in India to push defence sales

Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro will be in India Feb 8-11 "to build on the achievements of President (Barack) Obama's November trip", the State Department announced Monday.

Shapiro, whose visit comes ahead of the Defence Policy Group meeting in Washington next month, will attend the Aero India 2011 air show and aviation exhibition in Bangalore, followed by meetings with senior civilian and military officials in New Delhi to discuss defence trade issues.

Officials will also discuss maritime security and counter-piracy cooperation, the State Department said. India has been an active participant in the 60-nation Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and joins the US among countries contributing naval forces to patrol regional waters.

Officials will also discuss support to international peacekeeping through the Global Peace Operations Initiative. At Aero India, Shapiro will meet Indian defence officials and industry representatives, who will be welcoming the arrival of the first of six C-130J aircraft under a recent $950 million purchase.

The aircraft will provide the Indian Air Force with advanced strategic and humanitarian airlift capabilities. Two US companies are also currently competing for India's $11 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender.

"The visit's agenda reflects the president's initiative to craft an indispensable partnership with India which will shape a secure and prosperous 21st century," the State Department said.

Meanwhile, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs María Otero is also visiting India Feb 8-11 to discuss bilateral coordination on global issues. She will visit Tibetan refugee settlements, explore cooperation to strengthen elections organisations in third countries and consult on regional disaster management and hold bilateral meetings with senior government officials in New Delhi.

Following her visit to India, Otero will visit Bhutan Feb 11-12 to discuss the protracted situation of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. She will then visit Kathmandu Feb 12-14.