U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here on Thursday on a short visit that is expected to lay the groundwork for the revival of Indo-U.S. defence ties and identify niche areas of common interest in the Asia-Pacific region.
“When we look at Asia-Pacific, the area of operation represents tremendous new opportunities, but challenges as well. We need partners. We need relationships. That's the kind of world we live in, and that's the kind of world that we're going to be living in,” Mr. Hagel said at a meeting in Germany on Wednesday before leaving for India.
Mr. Hagel pointed out that he would follow up on the recently concluded visit to India of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “India represents the largest democracy in the world. They just had an election. They have a new government. The new Prime Minister is coming to Washington to see President Obama next month. So I'll be there, working, yes, our specific issues, but it's larger than that,” he said.
Analysts said the Americans are hoping to revive Indo-U.S. defence trade, which had dropped sharply during the second innings of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
But, the Indian side is not inclined to off-the-shelf purchases, preferring instead arrangements that would galvanise Indian defence industry in partnership with U.S. firms.
Diplomatic sources said negotiations on the purchase of 15 Chinook heavy lift and 22 Apache helicopters have advanced significantly, ahead of Mr. Hagel’s visit. The Defence Procurement Board (DPB) is set to take a call on the contracts worth $2.5 billion.
However, discussions on the procurement of the 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers appear to be floundering. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament in July that apart from cost issues, the manufacturers had not fully complied with the offset requirements related to the contract.
On Friday, Mr. Hagel will first call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then hold talks with Mr. Jaitley. He will also meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval before leaving for Australia on Saturday.