The Pentagon is making a strong pitch for U.S. companies for the $10 billion deal for 126 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force and future sales of the C-17 transport aircraft.

The U.S. Defence Department, also known as Pentagon because of the shape of its building, does not view defence equipment sales as mere commercial transactions and looks at them as a growth area for the India-U.S. partnership, a senior defence official said on Thursday.

“I am and will continue to be a strong advocate of U.S. solutions for India’s defence needs,” Michele Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defence for policy, told members of the Asia Society. “U.S. companies are eager to work with India as the Indian military continues to modernise.”

Noting two American companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are among six competitors for India’s biggest fighter-jet purchase in 15 years, she said: “We are also looking at future sales of the C-17 aircraft as another example of near term defence sales.”

“We understand that India is making a strategic as well as an economic choice when it makes defence acquisitions,” she said. “Obviously, the commercial benefits of defence sales to the U.S. economy can’t be denied.”

“But from a [Defence Department] perspective, these sales are even more important in building a strategic partnership that will allow both our countries to cooperate more effectively to protect our mutual security interests in the future,” Ms. Flournoy said.

“Whether the scenario involves humanitarian assistance, counterterrorism cooperation or maritime security activities,” she continued, “having common equipment will allow more seamless cooperation.”

India is seeking to build its own indigenous defence industry, and is looking for the best technologies to use in its defence sector, Ms. Flournoy said.

The United States is committed to providing India with top-of-the-line technology, and has backed up its commitment by approving the overwhelming majority of licenses requested last year, she said.

Ms. Flournoy noted Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates has made export control reform a key priority, citing the streamlining and modernizing of the U.S. export control system as a national security priority that affects the nation’s ability to build and sustain key partnerships.

India and the United States will explore ways to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction through maritime cooperation, dialogue, and identifying new technologies to combat this threat, Ms. Flournoy said.

“We will look at ways in which, together, we can better secure the global commons by expanding our already robust cooperation in air, space, cyberspace and maritime initiatives.”

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