The Associated Press
United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in June 2023 discussed upgrading the nation’s partnership with India and set a road map for cooperation over the next five years as the countries grapple with the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) increased belligerence, officials said.
Austin’s visit to New Delhi came as India strengthens its domestic defense industry by acquiring technologies and reducing reliance on imports, particularly from Russia.
Austin and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh explored ways of building resilient supply chains, India’s Defence Ministry said in a statement. They decided “to identify opportunities for the co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defense startup ecosystems of the two countries.”
The leaders also discussed regional security issues and committed to strengthening operational collaboration across all military services with a view to supporting India’s leading role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific, the statement said.
The road map will fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in areas such as air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; munitions; and the undersea domain, according to a U.S. Defense Department statement.
“This initiative aims to change the paradigm for cooperation between U.S. and Indian defense sectors, including a set of specific proposals that could provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and support India’s defense modernization plans,” it said.
The discussions also included cooperation in space, cyberspace and artificial intelligence.
“Together, we’re advancing a shared vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Austin tweeted after arriving on his second visit to India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Washington in late June 2023.
India is considering buying 18 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from U.S.-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. for an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion, defense analyst Rahul Bedi said. The high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs likely would be deployed along India’s borders with the PRC and Pakistan, and in the strategic Indian Ocean region, Bedi said.
The U.S.-India Defense Policy Group discussed joint production and manufacture of combat aircraft engines, infantry combat vehicles, howitzers and precision ordnance during its May 2023 meeting in Washington, according to media reports.
India has reduced its dependence on Russian arms by purchasing defense assets from nations such as France, Germany and the U.S.
New Delhi’s defense trade with Washington has risen from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in 2020, including major purchases such as long-range maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, missiles and drones.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS