Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit next month, the two countries are trying to enhance defence industrial cooperation and operationalising India-US major defence partnership.

To prepare ground for a possible breakthrough in the joint production of core technologies, India is looking at GE-414 engines that would power AJT Tejas MK-2. High level meetings between the top representatives of two governments are already taking place on this matter.

In that league, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane and US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Dr Colin Kahl co-chaired the 17th meeting of India-US Defence Policy Group (DPG) in Washington DC on Wednesday to review the progress made in furthering defence-industrial cooperation, and operationalising India-US Major Defence Partnership.

During the key discussions held at the DPG, the Ministry of Defence was pushing for ““implementation of foundational defence agreements”. For any announcement in US during Modi’s official tour, the government will have to get the deal cleared from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), said sources.

‘Past troubles may crop up’

Sources do not rule out issues of F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III on offer to the Indian Navy and GE-414 engine joint-production in India cropping up during Aramane’s meetings in the US. It is learnt that the US is trying to push F/A-18s, which is competing against Rafale-N, for Navy’s pick for its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, since that would give more business and employment opportunities to its manufacturer Boeing. Sources also pointed out that there is pressure from the US Congress on the Biden administration to pull off this big ticket deal.

India is also shopping for 98 KN engines to provide the thrust for Tejas MK-2, which will be advanced, bigger and faster than Tejas MK-1. The discussions are on for GE-414 engine technology transfer for co-production in India.  Sources equally pointed out that India has been trying to impress upon the US administration for last couple of years to ease the restrictive International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) so that defence industry business between the democracies can become smooth and grow.

Focus on cooperation

Important aspects such as military-to-military cooperation, exercises and the ongoing and future cooperative activities in the Indian Ocean Region also came up during the DPG interaction, said the Ministry of Defence. The DPG is an apex official-level mechanism between Ministry of Defence, India and US Department of Defence of US.

“Considerable focus was given on the ways and means to enhance the defence-industrial cooperation, including technology partnership, long-term research and development, and improving supply chain security,” the Ministry of Defence stated. The DPG meeting also discussed promoting co-development and co-production in India including potential areas and projects where Indian and US defence companies could work together — an attempt to realise ‘aatmanirbharta’ in this sector. They agreed to encourage both the private and government stakeholders to utilise the innovation ecosystems and promote defence start-ups, it added.

General Anil Chauhan, Chief of the Defence Staff, was also in the United States to participate in the Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue held in California from May 15 to May 17.