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US lowers tech barriers to woo India away from Russia, help it keep tab on China’s forays in Himalayas, Indian Ocean

Washington DC is keen to make New Delhi less reliant on Moscow for military hardware.
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 23 June 2023, 18:59 IST
Last Updated : 23 June 2023, 18:59 IST
Last Updated : 23 June 2023, 18:59 IST
Last Updated : 23 June 2023, 18:59 IST

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With the two governments agreeing on a Defence Industrial Cooperation Roadmap, General Atomics of the United States will not only assemble in India the armed drones New Delhi would procure from it, but will also set up in the South Asian country a global maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.

The United States has agreed to step up maritime security cooperation with India, including through enhanced underwater domain awareness, apparently in view of the increasing forays of the warships and submarines of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the Indian Ocean region. The US will also support the creation of logistic, repair, and maintenance infrastructure for aircraft and vessels in India.

New Delhi’s decision to buy MQ-9B high-altitude and long-endurance armed drones from General Atomics is one of the two major defence deals announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington DC for meetings with President Joe Biden – the other being the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the GE Aerospace headquartered in Cincinnati inked with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited based out of Bengaluru for transfer of technology and joint production of F414 fighter jet engines in India for the Indian Air Force.

“Moving away from the old buyer-seller relationship we had earlier, we have transitioned today to a relationship involving the transfer of technology, co-development, and co-production,” Modi said, addressing the media-persons along with Biden after a meeting at the White House. Biden said that the US was expanding its “Major Defence Partnership” with India with “more joint exercises, more cooperation between defence industries, and more consultation and coordination across all domains”.

The drones from the US will augment the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of India, amid China’s continued belligerence against it along the disputed boundary between the two nations in the Himalayas.

With Washington DC keen to make New Delhi less reliant on Moscow for military hardware, the Modi-Biden meeting saw the US agreeing to remove regulatory barriers to defence industrial cooperation with India. The new Defence Industrial Security Roadmap, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting, will provide policy direction to defence industries and enable the co-production of advanced defence systems and collaborative research, testing and prototyping of projects.

India and the US agreed to commence negotiations for concluding a Security of Supply arrangement. They also agreed to start discussions about the Reciprocal Defence Procurement agreement, which would make it easier for the US defence contractors to procure supplies from entities in India.

India’s defence exports grew from Rs 1,521 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 15,920 crore in 2022-23. The Modi Government has set a target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore of defence production by 2025, including exports worth Rs 35,000 crore. The US Department of Defence spent over $400 billion on contracts for goods and services in 2020 and 2021.

The new initiatives will enable the supply of defence goods between the US and India in the event of unanticipated supply chain disruptions, according to the joint statement issued after the Modi-Biden meeting.

New Delhi has been over the past few months repeatedly pointing out that India had to rely more on Russia only because the US and the other western nations had declined to share with it advanced military hardware and technologies. The Modi Government has been putting forward the argument in response to criticism over its refusal to join the US and the rest of the West in criticising Russia for its military aggression against Ukraine.

The US Navy has also concluded a Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) with Larsen and Toubro Shipyard in Kattupalli in Chennai and is finalizing agreements with Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai and Goa Shipyard in Goa. The agreements will allow mid-voyage US Navy ships to undergo service and repair at Indian shipyards, facilitating cost-effective and time-saving sustainment activities for US military operations across multiple theatres, according to the joint statement.

The two sides also agreed on placing three liaison officers of India in the US military commands for the first time – a move that signalled a deepening partnership and willingness for sharing critical information.

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Published 23 June 2023, 09:33 IST

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