India, US may strike deal to develop nex-gen combat vehicles

India, US may strike deal to develop nex-gen combat vehicles

India and the  United States may strike deals for co-development of next-generation military helicopters and combat vehicles this year, apart from moving towards holding multi-service war-drills - involving armies, navies and air forces.

Kenneth Juster, the US ambassador to India, recently said that one of the key pillars for durable ties between the two nations was "defense and counter-terrorism cooperation" in order to "enhance long-term security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region".

He said that India and US could announce major agreements this year, enabling cooperation in "areas such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms; fighter aircraft production; and the co-development of next-generation systems, including a Future Vertical Lift platform or Advanced Technology Ground Combat Vehicles".

The Future Vertical Lift programme of the American Department of Defence is aimed at replacing the entire US military helicopters, beginning with medium-weight rotorcraft replacing Apache and Black Hawk choppers by 2030. New Delhi and Washington DC have been discussing a proposal by the US to jointly develop the next-generation rotorcraft within the framework of the bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative.

The US also offered India co-development of ground combat vehicles with advanced technologies.

Washington's new envoy to New Delhi also suggested India-US multi-service war-drills, building on the successes of the single-service exercises by armies, navies and air-forces of the two nations.

Juster said that the US will continue to provide support to turn India into a "net provider of regional security, capable of responding successfully to threats to peace, especially in the Indian Ocean and its vicinity". "We can advance these objectives in several ways, which we expect to discuss this spring in our new 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue and incorporate in a roadmap to drive action on both sides," he said, delivering a policy speech at Carnegie India in New Delhi earlier this week.

The first India-US 2+2 dialogue, which is likely to take place in March or April this year, will seek to build on strategic convergence in the Indo-Pacific, while New Delhi and Washington DC are working on stepping up cooperation in defence and counter-terrorism.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are likely to travel to Washington DC to hold the "2+2 dialogue" with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Donald Trump last year agreed upon the new format of bilateral strategic consultation aimed at working together "for peace and stability across Indo-Pacific" and countering China's hegemonic aspirations in the region.

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