"Hopefully the next step will be as India evaluates in the Medium-Multi Role Combat aircraft deal... that they will decide to pick one of the US aircraft the F-16 Super Viper (Lockheed Martin) or the F/A-18 (Boeing)," US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer said.
"This becomes the very logical next step in the relationship. This will be a very important indicator of where this relationship goes in the 21st century," the US Ambassador said while addressing a conference here on 'America and Asia-Perspectives on Peace, Security and Development'.
Russian MiG-35, French Dassault Rafale, European Eurofighter Typhoon and Swedish Gripen are in the fray for the USD 11 billion deal.
The Ambassador said as India goes to down select the companies in the race in the next couple of months, "We look at the finalisation of the civil nuclear agreement and the issuing of the A-10 licenses and India signing the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC)".
Asked if the ties between the two sides would suffer if India selects any other aircraft, Roemer said, "Across the board, US is elevating, raising India to a global partner. The M-MRCA seems to be a logical next step in building this strategic partnership on the defence side."
"We are optimistic and want to build strategic ties with India and M-MRCA is going to be a very vigorous competition. But we are confident and hopeful," he added.
The US Ambassador said "I am an optimist about what President Barack Obama announced when he was here and announced support for India for permanent UN Security Council membership, took India off the entities designations."
Claiming that the recently-delivered C-130J Super Hercules was "under budget", Roemer said, "In the defence world today, that's a very important factor for tight budgets."