Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to the US in December is expected to propel the Indo-US relationship to a new level
The impending visit of the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to the United States on December 9 and 10 would build on the already deep engagement between the two sides in defence and strategic arena. It is significant that the visit has been scheduled within six months of the visit to New Delhi of the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in June this year during which the path for long-term defence and strategic partnership between the two largest democracies had already been cleared. Parrikar’s visit would be expected to propel the relationship to a new level.
The visit is taking place on the back of reported US decision to sell F-16s and Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan. This US decision has irked India as it intends to rearm India’s arch rival with sophisticated military aircraft. which certainly are not meant for use against terrorists or the Taliban. US arms supplied to Pakistan have always been used against India and once again the Pakistani army has been successful in blackmailing the US leaders.
According to the latest US Congressional Report, the Pentagon has cleared military hardware worth $5.4 billion after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US Defense Headquarters in Washington DC and the World Trade Center in New York. This includes the sophisticated F-16 fighters. Interestingly, the military hardware were supplied to Pakistan in the 10-year framework, for which the logic given was that Islamabad needs capacity building to fight terrorists in its border areas. However, Pakistan has always been successful in duping the US Administration, though, experts also say that the US has never been oblivious of the actual use of the weapon systems and platforms supplied to Pakistan. Though, both US and India claim to be strategic partners, US has never listened to Indian cries of arming Pakistan at the cost of India’s security.
Parrikar would take forward the decisions reached between the two sides and further discuss ways and means to promote the ‘Make In India’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the defence sector. The US has also evinced keen interest in asking its defence sector to manufacture in India for its armed forces and export them too, to Third World countries. Sources in the Indian Ministry of Defence said that the US and India would discuss the possibilities of raising the level of bilateral exercises and review the progress made in the joint working group on aircraft carrier as well as identify technologies that could be obtained by the Indian armed forces under the foreign military sales programme of the US Government. To create ground for the interactions between India and the US, two high level Indian delegations would be visiting the US. The India-US Defence Policy and Procurement Group will meet in Washington on November 13, in which Asha Ram, the Director General (Acquisition) would be leading the Indian side. The India-US Defence Policy Group will meet four days later, when the Indian Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar will have a meeting with the US Under Secretary of Defense Policy Christine E. Wormuth.
During the last visit of Ashton Carter four major issues were agreed upon. The first one was the New Defence Framework, which will build upon the earlier one and would give direction to the bilateral defence and strategic partnership for the next decade. Regarding projects the two sides finalised the joint development of Mobile Electric Hybrid Power sources and the Next Generation Protective Ensembles. The two sides had also agreed to pursue projects of co-development and co-production that will offer good possibilities for US defence sector to build defence partnership with Indian companies including the proposed ‘Make In India’ programme. The two sides had also agreed to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction, etc.
During Carter’s visit, the two sides had discussed India-US strategic partnership and had also exchanged views on emerging regional security dynamics. During the forthcoming Parrikar visit to Washington, the two sides would carry forward the discussion on issues ranging from the current situation in South China Sea where the US Navy had dared the Chinese Navy to challenge, when the American warships had ventured very near to the artificial island created by China for military purposes and expanding its territorial limits in the South China Sea. Afghanistan, Central Asia, West Asia and India-Pakistan relations are also expected to figure during the talks. By ordering the 15 Chinooks and 22 Apache helicopters, the Indian Government has already impressed the US Administration with its seriousness in engaging with the US defence firms. The US is already eyeing more orders from India. It has already been reported that Boeing has offered the F-18 Super Hornets to be manufactured in India to fulfill the needs of the Indian Air Force for the medium multirole combat aircraft. Boeing has already announced that either Apaches or the Chinooks would be assembled in India.
If these developments materialise, US-India relations will assume new dimensions as the US companies would for the first time enter Indian defence sector directly. During Parrikar’s visit to the US, all these issues will certainly be explored.