Sunday, April 10, 2016

Carter in India, Key defense issues on the Table

Carter in India, Key defense issues on the Table

US defence secretary Ashton Carter and India’s defence minister Manohar Parrikar are scheduled to make a joint statement at South Block here on April 12, following the culmination of former’s three-day visit to India.

A senior functionary at the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) told dna that “the two will have something substantial to announce and which is why the joint statement in front of the Indian media and the US journalists traveling with Carter”.

Carter’s visit beginning April 10 coincides with India’s lookout for a technologically new set of fighter jets for its air force and two US companies , Boeing and Lockheed Martin pitching hard for it even as the government to government deal on the French Rafale jets is still stuck in negotiations. 

As dna, quoting sources reported earlier, the two US firms and the Swedish firm Saab have strongly presented their cases before the MoD which is looking beyond Rafale to cater to the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) pressing requirement in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) category. Pressing because the current strength of fighter squadrons in IAF is 33, instead of the desired 42 and serviceability of India’s front line fighters, the Russian Sukhoi 30s is around 55 per cent only and the ageing MiG 21 and MiG 27 fleets need replacement in near future.

Besides this, India told another functionary at South block, is bargaining hard to get what is called a ‘pre-bid guarantee’ from the US government on transfer of technology (TOT), if any US firm is allowed to enter into manufacturing fighters under ‘Make in India’.

The US, on the other hand, is pressing for three ‘foundational agreements’ - Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) whereas India, so far has had its own doubts on them.

“There have been critical engagements among officials and defence industry representatives of both countries the past week in the run up to Carter’s visit”, said the functionary quoted above even as he kept short of confirming if India had made up its mind, at least on LSA, where it has shown interest of concurring with the US, albeit with some changes.

Carter departed from Washington on a two-week travel to Asia-Pacific region and then to the Middle East (West Asia in Indian context). His first stop will be Goa on Sunday where Parrikar will first show him around the famous Mangeshi temple. While he plans to visit a few churches too, on Monday, he will be hosted over lunch by Parrikar in the Admiral’s dining cabin on board the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier, the Russia made INS Vikramaditya off Karwar.

Following this, both the leaders will go to US 7th fleet ship USS Blue Ridge, which is also off Goa. “Both the INS Vikramaditya and USS Blue Ridge meetings will be part of hardcore official engagements ,” said an MoD official.

According to the US Department of Defence (DoD), Carter, on the eve of his India visit, told the Council on Foreign Relations at New York, he will meet prime minister Narendra Modi and Parrikar “to discuss a number of initiatives, including progress in aircraft carrier, jet fighter, and jet engine collaboration”.

He further said “he will talk about "exciting new projects" as well. “There is so much potential with India, he said, that the United States is "seizing every opportunity we can.".

- DNA India

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