In their second bilateral meeting within a span of less than three months on the sidelines of the G20 summit,Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden have reaffirmed their commitment to “deepen and diversify” the India-US “major defence partnership” through, among others, accelerated defence industrial collaboration.
A joint statement issued by the two sides on September 8 hailed advancements since the announcement of defence tie-ups in Washington on Congress clearing the GE F-414 jet engine co-production, conclusion of US Navy and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders, Ltd repair agreement and issuance of letter of request by Delhi on procurement 31 General Atomics MQ-9B drones.
The two leaders reviewed whole of defence and strategic related issues during the bilateral meeting here in the national capital. The American government has also given nod to Modi’s government’s effort to convert India into maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) hub for aerial platforms after stitching agreements with three Indian companies for mid-voyage repairs of US Navy. “The leaders also welcomed further commitments from the US industry to invest more in India’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul capabilities and facilities for aircraft,” the statement statement emphasised.
During the bilateral meeting in Washington, PM Modi and President Biden had agreed for Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) between the two sides, given the satisfaction over mid-voyage repairs since its first vessel USNS Salvor underwent at Larsen & Tubro’s (L&T’s) Kattupalli shipyard near Chennai. While, the US Navy agreement with L&T was signed during Modi’s visit, the one with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders was done last month and, the last one with Goa Shipyards remains to be inked. “Both sides recommitted to advancing India’s emergence as a hub for the maintenance and repair of forward-deployed US Navy assets and other aircraft and vessels,” read the joint statement.
Modi and Biden, as per the statement, “recommitted to work collaboratively and expeditiously to support the advancement of this unprecedented co-production and technology transfer proposal”. Now, the two sides will sit together to get on to the next stage of process which is arriving at a consensus on the pricing and on the engine before signing on co-production here in India by HAL.
The India-US major defence partnership is also witnessing “expanded cooperation in new and emerging domains such as space and AI”, beside in defence industrial cooperation, per the joint statement issued by White House.
Roping in start-ups
Both sides also welcomed the announcement by the Indian Ministry of Defence’s Innovations for Defence Excellence and the US Department of Defence’s Defence Innovation Unit to launch two joint challenges, which will invite start-ups to develop solutions to shared defence technology challenges.
Both the leaders also commended the India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) team for “establishing a robust collaboration agenda to harness the innovative work of the U.S. and Indian defence sectors to address shared security challenges”. INDUS-X convened the inaugural Academia Start-up Partnership at IIT Kanpur, with the participation of Penn State University, and initiated the Joint Accelerator Program for Indian Startups, through a workshop led by US accelerator M/s Hacking 4 Allies (H4x) and IIT Hyderabad in August 2023, statement informed.