Bureaucratic red tape must not hit defence ties, says Hagel

Washington has prodded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in New Delhi to ensure that bureaucratic red tape does not stymie efforts to boost India-US defence cooperation.

“For both our nations, the challenge is to seize opportunities, those opportunities that are before us today,” US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel said in New Delhi on Saturday. “Bureaucratic red tape within either of our governments must not bind the limits of our partnership and initiatives,” he said, just before concluding his three-day visit to India.
 
Hagel also said that he had invited Modi to take a tour of the Pentagon – the headquarters of the US Department of Defence – when he visits Washington for a meeting with US President Barack Obama in the last week of September.

The US Secretary of Defence was speaking on strategic partnership between India and the US on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of think-tank Observer Research Foundation.

Apart from calling on Modi, Hagel on Friday met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and had a detailed discussion with his counterpart Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

Hagel on Saturday said that the US had made around a dozen proposals to India under the bilateral Defence Trade and Technology Initiative for manufacturing military hardware together. “We have offered to not only co-produce, but also co-develop the next generation Javelin anti-tank guided missiles. This is an unprecedented offer,” said the US Secretary of Defence.

His reference to “bureaucratic red tape” appeared to be a subtle criticism of the Government of India over delay in procuring defence equipment. He is understood to have told Jaitley that Washington expects the Modi government to expeditiously move pending proposals of procuring US defence systems for the use of the armed forces in India.

Among the pending proposals are India’s plans to buy from America at least 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers and four P-8I anti-submarine aircraft.

The proposals were mooted during the second term of the Congress-led UPA.

The India-US defence relation was somewhat strained after New Delhi in 2011 dropped two US contenders from the fray for the $ 10.4 billion contract for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

Hagel on Saturday said that India’s Look East policy and US rebalance in Asia were in sync with convergence in the security interests of the two countries.

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