Special Correspondent

This is an event of considerable importance: Mulford

  • Helicopters, C-17s and PC3 Orion will be on show
  • Centre communicated about Iran sanctions: Ambassador

    NEW DELHI: Twenty American defence companies will take part in the 6th International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition to be held in Bangalore from February 7.

    Defence experts and aviation buffs would get the opportunity to see the F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft flying over the Indian skies, an improvement over the static display of the F-15 two years ago.

    "This is an event of considerable importance... this year a much bigger component of U S defence companies would be there [at the Bangalore show]. Two years ago, the F-15 was there on ground. This year F-16 and F18 would be flying," U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford told correspondents here on Thursday.

    Also on display would be the C-17 transport aircraft, helicopters and the PC3 Orion. And, among the participants, would be the Raytheon Company, possibly with its Patriot missile.

    Underlining the importance the companies were attaching to the show, Mr. Mulford said the former U.S. Defence Secretary, William Cohen, would be among the visitors.

    Asked about the status of procurement of Patriot missiles by India, he said that under the NSSP process it was agreed to exchange information, which was carried out. since then there has been no development on the Indian side.

    On the progress of the civilian nuclear agreement with India, Mr. Mulford said India's special representative Shyam Saran was in Washington for talks with U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, starting Thursday.

    He said the talks could draw up a timetable and possible draft for the 123 Agreement to be concluded.

    Before that, India would have to conclude a safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency requiring confirmation by the Board of Governors and consensus has to be there among the Nuclear Supplies' Group. "Then the clock starts ticking. It would go to Congress for a yes or no vote and it could take between three to six months," he said.

    Asked for his reaction to the reiteration that India would seek a no-ban on future testing and permission for reprocessing of fuel, he maintained that Congress had acted and ultimately the deal would have to fall within the confines of the July 2005 and March 2006 agreements.

    On India's relations with Iran, in the backdrop of the coming visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and possible talks on India-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, he said the Government of India had been told that legislation existed in the U.S. on sanctions on companies that dealt with Tehran.

    Visa backlog

    Mr. Mulford said the U.S. Embassy was able to reduce the visa backlog. The waiting period had been reduced to no more than 20 days, five days in some cases, from 100-187 days.

    In addition, visa seekers during emergencies could approach any circle for quick processing. The total number of visas issued had risen from five lakh to eight lakh, making India the second largest country to be issued visas by any U.S. Embassy in the world after Mexico.