|Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel
New Delhi: It will be a mix of trade in cutting-edge military equipment and international issues -- Afghanistan and the South China Sea – when US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel meets the Indian leadership on August 8.
A day later, he shall be meeting Industry captains -- a hint that the US may be keen on investing in India after New Delhi allowed foreign firms to pick up 49 per cent stake in military equipment producing companies. In September 2013, US and India agreed to ‘co-produce, co-develop and do-joint research for new technologies in the field of defence equipment manufacturing’, Hagel could just unlock the potential.
India is the biggest Arms importer in the World. New Delhi imported 14 per cent of all arms sold world-wide between the years 2008 and 2013, international think-tank the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said in its report in March this year.
Hagel arrives in India tonight and this will be the second visit of a top US official to India since Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party Government took over on May 26. Last week US Secretary of State John Kerry was in India and Modi is slated for US visit next month.
On August 8 Hagel and his delegation shall meet the Indian delegation led by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley for a hour-long discussion at the South Block office of the Indian Defence Minister. Minutes after ending the summit meet, he will meet Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha, who is also the Chairman Chief’s of Staff Committee (CoSC), probably to discuss ways to deepen US-India military ties. Before the meeting Jaitley, the US Secretary Defence will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
The next day on August 9, Hagel will be at function hosted by the think-tank, the Observor Research Foundation to celebrate its 25 years where he will deliver a 30-minute talk ‘ achieving the potential of the US-India strategic partnership’ and latter meet Indian Industry captains.
Military equipment and co-production
Hagel will be pushing India to close the pending deals for the sale of Boeing’s helicopters –heavy lift CH-47 Chinook and the attack AH-64D Apache -- beside the ultra light howitzer, the M777, produced by BAE systems. The sale of another four P-8I Boeing anti-submarine warfare aircraft for the Navy is expected to come up for discussion at the meetings.
These are the systems India intends to buy from the US. Apart from this the second aspect of the military equipment is the intention to jointly produce equipment. So far, India has such co-production tie-ups with Russia, France and Israel. In September 2013 US-India made two crucial announcements. It said: “The US and India place each other at the same level as their closest partners.
This principle will apply to defence technology transfer, trade, research, co-development and co-production for defence articles and services, including the most advanced and sophisticated technology.” The second part was: “The US continues to support India’s full membership in the four international export control regimes which would further facilitate technology sharing.”
The US Department of Defence Website quoting the Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral. John Kirby said. “Hagel would be discussing US.-Indian defence cooperation, including military exercises, defence, trade, co-production, co-development and new technologies.”
Afghanistan and South China Sea.
The US had, in 2012, made a rebalance of its forces to Asia-Pacific and sees India as crucial partner in its scheme of things. “Secretary Hagel will focus on the United States’ and India’s converging interests in the Asia-Pacific,” The US Department of Defence Website said.
Hagel will also discuss the situation in Afghanistan with Indian officials. India fears that a troop withdrawal of US-led forces will adversely impact the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.