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US, India Look to ‘Open up’ Defense Relationship

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Asia Defense

US, India Look to ‘Open up’ Defense Relationship

The U.S. Defense Secretary is visiting India hoping to forge closer strategic ties between New Delhi and Washington.

US, India Look to ‘Open up’ Defense Relationship

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is welcomed to India’s Ministry of Defense by India’s Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi, India, June 3, 2015.

Credit: DoD Photo by Glenn Fawcett

Today, while on a two-day visit to India, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that New Delhi and Washington agreed on two small technology co-development projects at a total cost of $1 million, to be split evenly by the two countries over a two year period.

The two projects, led by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and the Pentagon research labs, will focus on the joint development of a next generation solar generator and a new protective chemical-bio suit, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“We have big ambitions. Some of the projects that we’re launching just now are in part intended to blaze a trail for things to come,” Carter told reporters while in New Delhi. However, he also cautioned: “There is a legacy, and historical burden, of bureaucracy in both countries, and it is a constant exercise in stripping that away. It’s just the burden we carry forward from the fact that we were two separated industrial systems for so long during the Cold War. It just takes time to get the two [systems] together.”

The two projects are part of the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), which the defense secretary helped negotiate in 2012. In Carter’s words, “The heart of [DTTI] is to create cooperative technology and industrial relationships which are not just the buyer-seller kind. We obviously have those kind of relationships, but both we and the Indians want to move beyond that.”

Furthermore, Carter, while in New Delhi, is expected to sign a 10-year India-U.S. Defense Framework Agreement, which outlines concrete steps to bolster Indo-U.S. defense ties, including the co-production of weapons in India, joint exercises, maritime security cooperation, and intelligence sharing.

“The 2015 U.S.-India Defense Framework that I will sign next week will open up this relationship on everything, from maritime security to aircraft carrier and jet engine technology cooperation,” he said last week in Singapore, according to Deutsche Welle.

As I wrote back in April (see: “Should the US Help India Defeat China’s Navy?”), both countries announced at the beginning of the year a joint working group to share aircraft carrier technology and design. However, so far, the working group has not met once.

Additionally, as I reported before, Carter is expected to offer India a new U.S.-made tactical jet — the Textron Air Land Scorpion light-attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft — for sale.

Last week, India’s Ministry of Defense approved procurement of 22 AH-64E Apache and 15 CH-47F Chinook helicopters from Boeing at a total cost of $2.5 billion, although the final approval has to be given by India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.   According to Deutsche Welle, Washington has a $13 billion backlog of defense orders from India as of 2015.