'No pressure on India to buy F-16 fighter jets from US'

Last Updated 28 October 2018, 11:18 IST

The United States is not going to put pressure on India to buy F-16 fighter jets or any other defence system, a senior US diplomat has said here.

United States Consul General in Mumbai Edgard Kagan said India has purchased more than USD 15 billion worth of American defence materials and the US is "very proud" of the expanding defence ties between the two countries.

Asked if there was a threat of the US imposing trade sanctions on India after its multi-billion deal with Russia for the S-400 air-defence system, he did not give a direct answer.

"The idea that the US is going to pressure India to buy the F-16 or any other system is not true. We believe that American military systems bring tremendous capability to India or any other country which buys that.

"But we recognise that India makes its decisions on its own grounds," he told PTI in an interview here.

Kagan said it was important to recognise that decisions have consequences and India was very well aware where the US stands on a variety of issues. There are also matters that both countries can work closely to resolve, he said.

India recently concluded a USD 5 billion deal to buy the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia which could attract US sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Moscow.

American lawmakers, however, have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.

Kagan said the US is "very proud" of the expanding defence partnership with India.

"The fact is that India has purchased over USD 15 billion worth of American defence materials and there hasn't been one hint of a scandal.

"There hasn't been one suggestion of any impropriety and that's very significant. The American defence procurement is transparent... All details are published on the US site," he said.

This gives certainty to the people buying American products, the US consul general said.

"When you compare the track record of the C-17 purchases for instance, or C-130 purchases, which were all done on the budget, on time and in a very transparent way without a single hint of impropriety with many other defence procurement, the difference is quite striking," he said.

The C-17 and the C-130 are US-made cargo aircraft.

Asked about the Indian government directing social media platforms to take concrete steps to check the spread of rumours and messages inciting unrest, cyber crimes and other activities that could jeopardise national security, he said putting restrictions is no solution.

"I would be very concerned trying to restrict speech either on social media or anywhere else. The challenge is only to make sure that you understand the consequences of their actions.

"The solution to me can't be to control social media because inevitably the speech that we don't like also means trying to prevent the speech that brings change," he said.

Kagan said India has done very well since independence in terms of ensuring freedom of speech and having a free and vibrant press.

"If we start restricting people from social media its a very short stand. The important thing is to recognise people, need to take responsibility for what they do, to recognise the dangers and the risks of the abuse of this and we all have to recognise social media is like a knife we use," he said.

Kagan said if tools like social media are created to power our lives, inevitably the risk of cutting ourselves is higher.

"But I don't think it means we want a blunt knife or no knife at all," he said.

(Published 28 October 2018, 09:38 IST)

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