End-user pact must to access US arms market: Experts

"I think this is really not as extreme as it is made to sound. If India wants to obtain access to US military supplies it has to enter a protocol of this type. We wouldn't need the agreement if we could have done without US help," National Maritime Foundation Director C. Uday Bhaskar said.

The opinion is echoed by Major General (retd) Ashok Mehta.

"Every country ensures that its technology does not fall into wrong hands. If you need American hardware, if you want to diversify your inventory and not be completely dependent on the Russians, we would like to go to the US, which has the most sophisticated technology today," Mehta said.

During the recent visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the two countries agreed on the end-user monitoring arrangement that will henceforth be referred to in letters of acceptance for Indian procurement of US defence technology and equipment.

The provisions will be applicable to all military purchases from the US with retrospective effect and will provide for the physical verification of the military hardware purchased from the US to prevent its misuse.

India had inked deal-specific agreements with the US for earlier purchases, including Business Boeing Jets to ferry VIPs and the troop carrier INS Jalashwa.

"We have specific agreements with the US for earlier purchases, but so far they have never come for inspections," said a senior defence official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The US has signed end-user agreements with 82 countries, including Pakistan, Britain, France and Germany.

"The Americans have never harassed any country due to the end-user agreement. The best example is Pakistan, which has been using US military equipment against India," Bhaskar pointed out.

According to a defence official privy to the negotiations for the pact, physical inspection by the US comes to the picture only when there are "credible" allegations of equipment misuse.

"Ideally, we would not like to have this contract at all. We do not have this with other countries. We just give an undertaking. The US has it on its statute; so we had to factor in their concerns," the defence official, who did not want to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said.

Bhaskar seconded this.

"First of all, the US has to show mala fides on the Indian part," he said.

A senior Navy official who did not want to be named said that India needed to broaden its options to enhance its military capabilities.

"It makes sense to have options; otherwise the seller will bargain hard with you. With 70 percent of our defence equipment being imported, we cannot afford to have a single vendor and the US is a worthy contender," he said.

Moreover, India has been giving end user certificates to other countries as well, including Russia, which is analogous to an undertaking against selling the technology of the military equipment to a third party.

"The fact is that it is not the Americans only who want to make sure that the equipments that they provided is not misdirected. Even when the Soviets  provided us with military hardware there were certain conditions about transfer of technology and use of those equipments," Mehta added.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony defended the measure, saying it was the result of three years of tough efforts and that the government did not have any reservations about it.

"It has been signed after three years of hard bargaining. Everything has been sorted out. We do not have any reservations," Antony told reporters here.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha Tuesday to protest against the pact, terming it intrusive and saying it should not have been inked without parliament being taken into confidence.

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