India and the U.S. are discussing possibilities of co-producing jet engines, long-range artillery and infantry vehicles under the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) announced earlier this year and officials said some high-technology initiatives are expected to be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the U.S. next month. Ahead of the visit, launch of INDUS-X under the iCET to promote partnerships between the two countries’ defence innovation ecosystems is scheduled in Washington.
In the run up to the visit, these issues were discussed at the 17th meeting of India-U.S. Defence Policy Group (DPG) chaired by Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane from India and Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl last week. “The two sides reviewed the progress made in furthering defence industrial cooperation and operationalising the India-U.S. Major Defence Partnership. Important aspects such as military-to-military cooperation, implementation of foundational defence agreements, exercises and the ongoing and future cooperative activities in the Indian Ocean Region were discussed,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry further said that considerable focus was given on the ways and means to enhance defence industrial cooperation, including technology partnership, long-term research and development, and improving supply chain security. “The meeting also discussed promoting co-development and co-production in India including potential areas and projects where Indian and U.S. defence companies could work together.”
Mr. Aramane also held a meeting with Deputy Secretary of Defence Dr. Kathleen Hicks on which Pentagon issued a statement. “The two leaders welcomed the upcoming launch of INDUS-X in advance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. in June, and highlighted its value as an opportunity to promote partnerships between the two countries’ defence innovation ecosystems,” Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon said.
The INDUS-X is going to be a major initiative under iCET and the focus is firmly on advancing high-tech cooperation, sources said.
Officials from both sides confirmed that the jet engine collaboration was discussed during DPG along with other collaboration mechanisms within co-production and co-development among other issues.
Among proposals being discussed is a General Electric (GE) application to U.S. government to licence-manufacture its GE-414 engine in India which has already been chosen to power India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-MK2 and another proposal to jointly produce a jet engine for India’s future indigenous jets for which GE is competing with Safran of France and Rolls Royce of U.K.
Commenting on this, Mukesh Aghi, president and CEO of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) said only four countries make jet engines for planes, and India will be the fifth one if the deal is announced.
“So the jet engine deal will take India’s capability in the aircraft industry to a new level, and I think from a U.S. perspective, it will mean jobs. The deal also sends a message to the Chinese that the relationship between India and the U.S. is not just a surface relationship and is getting deeper,” he told The Hindu.
If the U.S. agrees to transfer jet engine [technology] to India, which China doesn’t at present have the capability for, it sends a very strong message, Mr. Aghi further said adding, “So, the deal is important from a messaging perspective, and also from the substantial transfer of technology, that will be a first, and if it is announced, I think the [PM’s] visit will be seen as a success in those terms.”
Deputy Secretary Ms. Hicks reiterated U.S. support for India’s defence modernisation objectives, including increasing U.S. investments in Indian domestic manufacturing, Mr. Pahon said. During the meeting, Deputy Secretary Hicks described the proposals to co-produce jet engines, long-range artillery, and infantry vehicles under iCET as unprecedented opportunities to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Indian defence sectors.
The DPG is the apex official-level mechanism between Ministry of Defence, India and U.S. Department of Defence and comprehensively reviews and guides all aspects of bilateral defence cooperation with a focus on policy.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan in January jointly chaired the inauguaral meeting of iCET.
Earlier efforts at co-developing a jet engine under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) has failed to take off owing to U.S. domestic legislations due to which the Joint Working Group on it was wound up a few years back.
(with inputs from Suhasini Haidar)