Pathfinder projects to transform India-US defence ties


obama-welcomeIndia’s burgeoning defence relations with the US are poised for a decisive transformation, with the two countries renewing their defence framework agreement and identifying four “pathfinder projects” for co-production and co-development of advanced weapon systems.

The breakthrough in defence relations was unveiled after wide-ranging talks between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama in New Delhi on January 25.  Mr Obama is the first American president to have been invited as guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations.

The new mantra of co-development and co-production in the sphere of defence fits in well with Mr Modi’s signature ‘Make in India campaign’ and will go a long way in spurring indigenisation of India’s defence industry.

Under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI, the four pathfinder projects identified for co-development included the next generation Raven Minis UAVs, roll on and roll off kits for C-130, mobile electric hybrid power source and Uniform Integrated Protection Ensemble Increment 2.

The two strategic partners also agreed on a working group to explore aircraft carrier technology, besides designing and development of jet engine technology.

Striking an upbeat note, Mr Modi underlined that the two countries have decided to take “growing defence cooperation to a new level.” “We have agreed, in principle, to pursue co-development and co-production of specific advanced defence projects,” Mr Modi said at a joint media interaction with Obama.

Besides stressing on joint development and production, the defence framework agreement, which has been renewed for another ten years, envisages enhancing bilateral defence partnership by stepping up joint military exercises and in-depth intelligence-sharing, maritime security efforts.

The increased emphasis on co-development promises to upgrade the India-US defence relations to a new level, and is set to arouse some concerns in Moscow’s diplomatic-strategic establishment that has highlighted the unique nature of India-Russia military relations, which pivot around technology transfer and joint development of missile systems like the Brahmos. The US has, however, a long way to go to outstrip Russia’s predominant position as the chief supplier of weapons to India, with Moscow accounting for over 60 per cent of total armaments imported by New Delhi.

The US-India military trade has surpassed $10 billion. Going by the recent clutch of deals and the renewal of the defence agreement, the US-India military trade is set to register a quantum jump in years to come.