New Delhi, Nov. 12: Holding a shopping list of weapons worth $14 billion as bait, India has talked tough with the US on military-to-military ties and has said unless Washington made arms and technology transfer easier, the relationship will not take off.
At an India-US security cooperation group (SCG) meeting held here, defence ministry officials claimed Delhi had made it clear that despite the increasing number of visits by key figures from both countries, the military-to-military relationship has a long way to go.
Coinciding with the SCG meeting, defence production secretary N.S. Sisodia told American armament sellers that India has been chary of negotiating large contracts with them because the US has, in the past, chosen to turn off the tap on crucial supplies.
This was the first time — since the claims from early this year that India and US military ties were on the upswing — that a senior official of the Indian defence establishment has gone public with the country’s grievances. So far, successive visits by high officials and joint military exercises were being touted as evidence that India and the US were building up a military-to-military partnership. Delhi now effectively says the partnership is dependent on assured supplies from the US.
Sisodia was speaking at a seminar on the Indian and US defence industry hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry. Sisodia said: “Substantial commercial opportunity for cooperation in the defence sector will arise if we follow transfer of technology, especially technology, coproduction, mutual outsourcing and joint ventures in defence production and technology.”
As such, New Delhi is telling Washington that defence cooperation has to graduate from a buyer-seller relationship to a more lasting commitment. Sisodia even said the bureaucracy in the US must simplify transfer of technology.
Sisodia’s remarks are significant because the ban on transfer of dual-use technology — technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes — has not yet been lifted by the US since the 1998 nuclear tests by India.
Washington has doubts that such technology could even be used for India’s nuclear programme. “We have made it clear that we want arms deliveries to be based on a time frame of our requirement,” Sisodia said.
Among the audience listening to the Indian defence production secretary were representatives of some of the largest companies in the US military-industrial complex — Raytheon, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace, Asia Connections, ITT Night Vision, L3 Communications & Ocean Systems, United Defense, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Bell Helicopter Textron and Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Sisodia said that with the arms market expanding and becoming competitive, India was willing to explore other opportunities if the US denial continued. India was in the market with a shopping list of weapon systems worth $ 14 billion.
Military scientist and director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis K. Santhanam said so far, the India-US defence ties has only “promoted tourism” — referring to frequent visits of officials — without breaking substantial ground.
Integrated Defence Staff chief Lt General Pankaj Joshi suggested the US might explore concluding agreements with India like their pacts with China and Turkey.