Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, on Friday discussed a wide range of strategic issues, including co-production and co-development of defence systems, as they explored ways to enhance defence technology cooperation, officials said.
At a bilateral meeting shortly after the conclusion of the India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue, Singh and Austin explored ways and means to advance defence technology cooperation with joint research in critical areas, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
“They reviewed the progress of the India-US Defence Industrial Ecosystem, INDUS-X, which was launched in June and aims to expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses and academic institutions of India and US,” it said.
At a special briefing on the “2+2 dialogue”, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane called the defence cooperation as “a rock-solid support” to the bilateral relations between India and the US. He said the potential collaboration between the two sides in emerging domains for civilian commercial use and for strategic purposes was of common interest.
“We have a common vision of free open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based global order throughout the seas. Our partnership is of critical importance to peace and stability in our immediate neighborhood in other regions connected to us,” he said.
Aramane said India was in the process of finalising the commercial arrangement and putting in place the legal requirements for the deal between General Electric (GE) Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to jointly produce F414 engines in India. These engines will power the Indian Air Force’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Mk2 jets.
The GE-HAL pact was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the White House in June, which followed Singh’s previous bilateral meeting with Austin that focused on greater cooperation on development of advanced technologies and joint manufacturing of critical technologies.
“This (jet engine deal) is on track and it will happen as was originally scheduled,” Aramane said.
He said India has already sent a Letter of Request to the US on the purchase of General Atomics (GA) armed MQ-9B HALE UAVs, which was also announced during Modi’s June visit to the US. The weaponised UAVs are expected to boost the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces across domains.
“The US-based company (GA) has to take clearance from their government and come back to us. Meanwhile, we have the necessary capabilities to take care of our immediate threats,” Aramane said.
On the development of infantry combat vehicles for India, Aramane said it was part of the defence industry cooperation roadmap between the two countries.
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The initial offers on infantry combat vehicle systems have come from the US, he said. “We have expressed our interest in further discussing to take the co-development and co-production part ahead. This will take some time,” he added.
At the bilateral meeting, Austin welcomed India’s decision to elevate to a full membership of the Combined Maritime Forces, a multilateral construct headquartered in Bahrain.
Singh also handed to Austin some World War II-era items recovered in Assam as part of the US Defence POW MIA Accounting Agency Mission. These included parachute parts, a uniform and an aircraft of the US forces.