The Javelin challenge

The irony in >India-United States relations is that all the right things are said about them, and all the wrong things done. So while the two countries are said to be bound by virtue of being “the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy,” a line unfailingly included in the speech of every visiting dignitary from the U.S., the reality is a big drift in bilateral ties. As the time nears for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the White House in September, there is an apparent effort to ensure that his talks with President Barack Obama are productive. The pressure has grown on Washington to show it wants to take bilateral ties forward under Prime Minister Modi, who it had blacklisted while he was Gujarat Chief Minister over the 2002 riots. The latest endeavour came from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who arrived in New Delhi shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry. After his meetings with Mr. Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Mr. Hagel pronounced himself convinced that the two sides “can transform our potential into results.” The main focus of his meetings was cooperation in the defence sector. India is the world’s largest importer of arms, and also among the biggest buyers of U.S. materiel. Since 2008, New Delhi has bought U.S. defence equipment worth nearly $10 billion and has been pushing for transfer of technology to manufacture those weapons here. Mr. Hagel appeared to concur, saying the way to transform defence ties would be to move “from simply buying and selling to co-production, co-development, and freer exchange of technology.”

Declarations apart, the U.S. has a reputation for not being very reliable on precisely this aspect of its military partnerships. No agreements were announced during Mr. Hagel’s visit. The two sides, however, agreed to activate their stillborn 2012 Defense Trade and Technology Initiative. Mr. Hagel is said to have discussed a “pilot plan” to co-produce and co-develop the Javelin anti-tank missile, manufactured by Raytheon-Lockheed Martin. A team from the company had visited India some years ago, but drew the line at transferring technology to enable the system to be built locally. It is unclear if New Delhi’s recent decision to increase the FDI limit in defence production from 26 to 49 per cent will be a game-changer. The limited hike has not received an effusive welcome from weapons contractors. A deal on the Javelin would be far dearer than the Spike, the Israeli alternative the Army has extensively tested and liked. Still, Mr. Hagel’s offer should be put to the test, to check if the U.S. is serious about taking its military partnership with India to a higher level.


This article was corrected on August 13, 2014 for a factual error

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 11:57:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-javelin-challenge/article6309528.ece

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