India and the U.S. have agreed to initiate negotiations for a ‘Security of Supply’ (SoS) arrangement and a ‘Reciprocal Defence Procurement’ (RDP) agreement which will promote long-term supply chain stability as defence sources said on Monday that the deal for assembling the General Electric GE-414 jet in India is “almost done” with expectations that it could be concluded during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.S. later this month. During the visit of U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin to India, the two sides concluded a roadmap for ‘Defence Industrial Cooperation’ which shall guide the policy direction for the next few years.
In addition, capacity building, including Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), strategic infrastructure and infra development as well U.S. companies setting up Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities in India were top among the issues during talks between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Mr. Austin, a defence source said. India also asked U.S. companies to increase sourcing from India particularly by Boeing under the mega-civil aircraft deal signed with Air India recently.
“Regional security environment was discussed including the Indo-Pacific… On technology, discussions were held on collaboration with the U.S. on critical and advanced technology. India asked U.S. to establish MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facilities in India for equipment in use with Indian armed forces which can also cater to the region,” the source said. India also asked the U.S. to remove hurdles which prohibit sales and transfers of equipment to other friendly countries.
On MRO, noting that two U.S. ships have so far visited India for repairs at Larsen & Toubro (L&T) yard at Kattupalli in Tamil Nadu, sources said an agreement is in place to take this forward and a third ship is expected for repairs very soon. “India is keen that this be scaled up further which will boost the country’s MRO capabilities and also boost the local industry,” a source said.
The India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), a new initiative to advance cutting-edge technology cooperation is set to be launched by the U.S.-India Business Council on June 21 coinciding with Mr. Modi’s visit. It is designed to complement existing government-to-government collaboration by promoting innovative partnerships between U.S. and Indian companies, investors, start-up accelerators, and academic research institutions, the U.S. Department of Defence said in a statement.
A Defence Ministry statement said that the two Ministers explored ways of building resilient supply chains and both sides will identify opportunities for co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defence start-up ecosystems of the two countries. “Towards these objectives, they concluded a roadmap for U.S.-India Defence Industrial Cooperation which shall guide the policy direction for the next few years,”it stated adding that the two sides discussed a substantial range of bilateral defence cooperation issues, with particular focus on identifying ways to strengthen industrial cooperation.
According to the DoD, the new Roadmap will fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in areas such as air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; munitions; and the undersea domain. “This initiative aims to change the paradigm for cooperation between U.S. and Indian defence sectors, including a set of specific proposals that could provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and support India’s defence modernisation plans,” it stated.
Mr. Austin and Mr. Singh also pledged to review regulatory hurdles impeding closer industry-to-industry cooperation and to initiate negotiations on a Security of Supply Arrangement and a Reciprocal Defence Procurement agreement, which will promote long-term supply chain stability, the DoD said.
Mr. Austin reached India on Sunday evening from Singapore on a two-day visit and before the bilateral meeting and delegation level talks on Monday was presented a tri-service guard of honour.
The RDPs are agreements that relate to research, development, or production of defence equipment, or to the reciprocal procurement of defence items, according to a paper from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The U.S. Government has also indicated that RDP MoUs have a goal of promoting rationalisation, standardisation, and interoperability of defence equipment with Allies and friendly governments,” its states.
Mr. Austin also held talks with the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, during whihc the DoD said the Secretary exchanged views about regional and global security issues of concern, including maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region. “The Secretary welcomed Mr. Doval’s perspective about shared security interests and objectives, including his ideas for greater maritime collaboration,” it said.
The two leaders also also committed to strengthen operational collaboration across all military services, with an eye to supporting India’s leading role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific, the DoD statement said and the talks also encompassed new opportunities to strengthen information sharing and increase cooperation in the maritime domain.
After the meeting, Mr. Singh said on Twitter that the talks revolved around enhancing defence cooperation in several areas including the convergence of strategic interests and enhanced security cooperation. “India-U.S. partnership is critical for ensuring a free, open and rules-bound Indo-Pacific region. We look forward to closely working with the U.S. across the domains for capacity building and further consolidating our strategic partnership,” he said.