WASHINGTON: Noting that India and the United States are currently having discussion on a wide variety of state-of-the-art military hardware, a senior US official today insisted that New Delhi signing the "foundational agreements" with it would broaden the scope and potential of bilateral defense relationship.
Ahead of her visit to India next week, Tina Kaidanow, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, told a group of reporters that it is important for Indian officials to understand these foundation agreements because it allows them to do so much more.
"These are the kinds of things that we conclude with all of our friends and allies. It broadens the scope of the potential for the defence relationship," she said. "Our hope is that ...the Indian government has the sovereign right to decide obviously ...but for all these agreements that we can come to a good understanding because that allows us to do so much more in the defence space," Kaidanow said in response to a question.
India-US bilateral defence trade has risen from near zero to USD 15 billion since 2008. India is projected to spend billions on military modernisation over the next decade.
Her talks in India will focus on expanding the security cooperation while furthering opportunities for American industry.
Referring to the Lockheed-offer to relocate its F-16 manufacturing base to India under "Make in India", she said a lot of what the two countries are talking about here is indeed in the co-production, co-development arena.
"My hope is that the Indian government can come to some relevant decisions in the not so distant future," she said.
While bilateral defence trade figure of USD 15 billion is very compelling, but increasing this figure will hinge on not only how the two countries agree to sign foundational agreements, but also to come to an understanding on the contracts and all the other kinds of things that have to happen as a function of concluding some of these deals.
"That's the reason for a trip like mine is to see how far we can further some of those efforts," the senior US official said in response to a question.
The scope of India-US defence trade relationship has expanded fairly dramatically over the last decade and the Trump administration would like to see that expand even further.
"We consider the Indians to be important partners for us," she said adding that the US is currently engaged with India in a "very good, very productive, very robus" conversation on a whole host of things that they might choose to acquire from Washington at some point.
Much recently, a US team was in India to look at some of these things and to talk more with their Indian counterparts, she noted.
When asked about India's interest in armed drones and some of the other high-tech military hardware, Kaidanow said the US is still in the process of trying to discern exactly what their requirements are and then how it can provide the right tactical equipment that will meet those requirements.
"Part of this will be not just our decision but also the Indian government's decision as to what they procure," she said.
"We are having a full conversation on the entire array of things that India might be interested in. Nothing is necessarily precluded. It's just a function of what meets the requirements and what we can provide to meet the necessary requirements," Kaidanow said.