|By Gulshan Luthra||Published: January 2018|
New Delhi. Newly-appointed US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster has renewed Washington’s offer to New Delhi to coproduce sophisticated weapon systems from aircraft to helicopters and combat vehicles.
In his first interaction here with the capital’s strategic community and media, he outlined five pillars as Next Steps for strengthening the Indo-US Relations in the 21st century and beyond, pointing out that “the United States has gone from a restrictive policy regarding the export of dual-use items to India to a much more liberal one” and that the “US is keen to see India being the net security provider in the Indian Ocean.”
He described India as “a leading power in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
Although the two countries have had occasional disagreements, they moved forward with confidence, he said, adding: “Now, India is celebrating its membership in two of the four multilateral export control regimes – the Wassenaar Arrangement on dual-use items, which India just joined, and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). We also expect in the very near future India to join the Australia Group on chemical and biological weapons. And we are working closely with India and our international partners to secure India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.”
Defence cooperation was one of the key pillars, and notably, the US defence trade with India had moved from virtually nothing to over $15 billion, the Ambassador said, pointing out that the US had also cleared the Predator Sea Guardian for the Indian Navy.
Notably, on the platter for coproduction from the US are Boeing F-18 E/F Advanced Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70, naval vessels, Future Combat Vehicles, Helicopters and some missiles. The F-16 is already on the declared list of one of the two single engine aircraft – the other being Saab Gripen – for possible manufacture in India.
Observed Ambassador Juster: “US defence trade with India includes sales of some of America’s most advanced military equipment. We want to see this trend continue – because India’s defence needs are vast and because the United States, as a global leader in developing advanced military technology, is committed to enhancing India’s security. A prominent example of this commitment was the Trump Administration’s decision last June to approve the sale of the Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System, positioning India to be our first non-NATO partner or treaty ally to acquire this advanced platform.
“In line with India’s desire to produce more of its equipment in its own country, I want to emphasise that the United States is more than just another supplier.”
“Major US defence companies are already in India producing components for complex defence systems. Moreover, our Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) and the US designation of India as a Major Defence Partner (MDP) are designed to strengthen our defence cooperation, including opportunities for co-development and co-production. We seek to assist India’s efforts to build up its indigenous defence base and capabilities, as well as enhance the inter-operability of our two forces as major defence partners in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The interaction was coordinated by Carnegie India Director C Raja Mohan.
Notably, the US has been sounding India diplomatically for several years to buy its technologies, and the first sale of an important system after the 1974 nuclear test of India was that of Raytheon’s AL/ TPQ 37 Weapon Locating Radars (WLR) for the Indian Army in 2004. Washington had otherwise led the world in imposing technology embargoes against India, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and MTCR. In 2005, the US State and Defense Departments gave clear indications of their intent to sell various sophisticated systems to India, and in 2007, both the Boeing F-18 and Lockheed Martin F-16 were in the Indian Air Force’s competition for Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
Other systems on offer have included helicopters from Boeing, Sikorsky and Bell. The Indian Navy became the first customer after the US Navy for Boeing’s P8 Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft which in fact is the world’s most sophisticated Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) system.
Ambassador Juster said that both the US and India “shared fundamental values of individual liberty, hard work and enterprise” and based on them, “we have common interests in playing by the rules, enjoying freedom of trade and commerce, and resolving disputes peacefully in accordance with international law.”
On the Indo-Pacific Region, he said the area covered the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, many of the vital choke points for global trade, and was fast becoming the center of gravity of the evolving international system.
“The US National Security Strategy recognises India is a leading power in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. For India and the United States, the Indo-Pacific is vital to the security and prosperity of our people as well as others. Together, we want to:-
- ensure a free and open region, where the rule of law and democratic principles are reflected in a rules-based order;
- promote respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity;
- guarantee freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce, and other lawful uses of the sea;
- ensure that territorial and maritime disputes are resolved peacefully, consistent with international law;
- promote economic connectivity through private sector-led growth, free and fair trade, the use of responsible debt-financing practices, and the transparent development of infrastructure; and
- together, we want to preserve regional stability and security, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and eliminate the scourge of terrorism.
The Ambassador emphasised the cooperation in counter terrorism already taking place, and said that the two countries shared valuable information in this regard. Both the countries for instance “have a strong interest in promoting peace, security, and prosperity” in Afghanistan.
Ambassador Juster concluded: “While both India and the United States cherish our independence and sovereignty, the true value of our partnership is that it can better enable each of us to positively influence global affairs and achieve our greatest aspirations for the security and prosperity of our people. Of course, for this to happen, we must approach our task as friends – with respect, trust, acceptance, confidence, and resilience and constancy.”