Following talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, India and the United States have resolved to cut through American laws that have been inhibiting a full-fledged defence partnership between the two countries.
While India is tying up from the first stage — right from joint R&D — with countries such as Russia, France and Israel, a joint declaration on Indo-U.S. defence ties at the end of the Singh-Obama meeting sought to address this lacuna with Washington.
“The U.S. and India share common security interests and place each other at the same level as their closest partners,” said the joint declaration seeking to address a crucial gap in the defence ties since New Delhi is not rated as Washington’s ally in military terms.
Admitting that the full vision set out in the 2005 New Framework Agreement is yet to be recognised, the joint declaration identified the areas as defence technology research, co-development and co-production of defence equipment and services.
“They will work to improve licensing processes, and follow expedited licence approval processes to facilitate this cooperation,” the joint declaration said, while acknowledging impediments from India’s point of view. “The U.S and India are also committed to protecting each other’s sensitive technology and information,” it added.
Setting out the agenda for the next year, it wanted the two sides to continue understanding each other’s procurement systems and approval processes and to address process-related difficulties. They will then identify specific opportunities in advanced defence technologies and systems in conformity with their national policies and procedures.
The joint declaration also took note of India’s acceptance of an invite to participate in RIMPAC, a U.S.-organised naval exercise in which nearly two dozen nations are expected to participate. India already participates in the Malabar, Red Flag and Yudh Abhyas joint military exercises with the U.S.
India has been sending a senior Navy officer as observer to RIMPAC but the U.S. wants a naval warship to participate. “India holds bilateral naval exercises with the U.S. and countries such as the U.K., Australia, South Korea, Japan but a scale as big as RIMPAC certainly gives you an idea on how to manage multiple forces over a large theatre,” security analysts say.
During his visit to India on September 18, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton B. Carter said the U.S. was ready to offer high-end defence technology to India as well as was open to co-developing and co-manufacture products that could be sold internationally.
“After U.K. and Australia, now we have made this offer to India. This is a new approach to co-develop next generation products. India needs time to decide on it,” he had said.
The next-generation version of Javelin anti-tank missile could be co-developed and co-produced with India on the lines of India-Russia joint venture of Brahmos cruise missile project, he suggested.
The “joint declaration’s reference to process-related difficulties,” say defence analysts, points to bureaucratic “difficulties” in both countries in moving fast on defence partnership.