India, U.S. in agreement on strategic issues: Rajnath

The bilateral talks between the Defence Minister and U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin focussed on enhancing defence industrial cooperation, and shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region

Updated - November 10, 2023 09:53 pm IST

Published - November 10, 2023 08:34 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hands over parts of the parachute, uniform, and airplane of U.S. forces from World War II recovered in Assam to US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin after their bilateral meeting, in New Delhi on November 10, 2023.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hands over parts of the parachute, uniform, and airplane of U.S. forces from World War II recovered in Assam to US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin after their bilateral meeting, in New Delhi on November 10, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

India and the United States increasingly find themselves in agreement on strategic issues, including countering China’s aggression, promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, and addressing regional security challenges, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on November 10 in the opening remarks of his bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.

During the talks, there was a particular focus on enhancing defence industrial cooperation and getting the defence industries from both sides together to cooperatively co-develop and co-produce defence systems, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. Mr. Austin welcomed India’s decision to become a full member of the Combined Maritime Forces, a multilateral construct headquartered in Bahrain, it added.

“The India-U.S. defence relationship has evolved into a strategic partnership characterised by mutual trust, shared values, and a growing recognition of common interests in maintaining regional and global security,” Mr. Singh said in his opening remarks. “We share a focus on maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, recognising the criticality of safeguarding vital sea lanes, and promoting stability; our teams are working on the substantive outcomes.”

Expanding cooperation

Noting that the strategic convergence would expand the scope of collaboration to new domains, the Defence Minister said: “We are charting new pathways of cooperation by pursuing stronger defence, industrial engagement, easing of technology restrictions, resilient supply chains in all domains, and maritime security.”

Mr. Austin emphasised that Chinese aggression was only one of the topics on the meeting’s agenda. “We did discuss the security challenges and the threat posed by China during the meeting but we did not spend our entire dialogue on that matter... Our relationship is not just about the People’s Republic of China and is based on many things,” he said. “It is based on shared values and democracy. We are cooperating in undersea and space technologies,” he added.

Mr. Singh also symbolically handed over to his American counterpart some fragments of parachutes, uniforms, and airplanes used by U.S. forces during World War II, which have been recovered in Assam. These items will be given to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, whose mission is to account for American military personnel listed as prisoners of war (POW) or missing in action (MIA) from past conflicts around the world.

UAV, jet engine deals

The two countries are currently negotiating deals for the purchase of 31 MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicles, and for the licensed manufacture of General Electric’s F-414 jet engine in India, which has been chosen to power the MK2, an indigenous light combat aircraft.

With regard to the MQ-9B deal, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane told journalists that India has sent a letter of request and is waiting for the U.S. to respond, as the American company is required to get a clearance from its government. In the meanwhile, India has the necessary capability to take care of immediate threats, he said.

Infantry combat vehicles

With regard to the Stryker, an infantry combat vehicle, Mr. Aramane said that it was part of the defence industry cooperation roadmap, which aims to co-develop and co-produce the machinery, weapons, and equipment required by the two countries. Thus, any cooperation in this regard will happen once the Indian military’s needs are finalised, and they specifically arrive at a production plan, he said.

“The initial offer on several infantry combat systems has come from the U.S. We expressed interest in discussing further to take the co-development and co-production part. This will take some time. Our industry and military will work with U.S. industry and military teams and come out with a concrete plan in this regard,” Mr. Aramane added.

The two Ministers comprehensively discussed a wide range of defence and strategic issues and explored ways and means to advance their defence technology cooperation through joint research in critical areas, the Ministry said. They also reviewed the progress of the India-U.S. Defence Industrial Ecosystem, INDUS-X, which was launched in June this year and aims to expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of the two countries, it said.

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