Prior to his scheduled visit to India, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter asserted that the US wants to develop ‘closer and stronger’ military ties with India and that a new milestone is to be expected in bilateral ties. The US has offered to supply F/A-18 ‘Super Hornet’ fighters to The Indian Air Force under the ‘Make In India‘ programme.
Representatives of the US government as well as Boeing and F16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin have been pushing for the establishment of a new generation American fighter production line in India. However, in the wake of Obama’s move to sell 8 F-16s to Pakistan, to be followed by 9 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, no final decision has been made so far.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank, Carter said, “What we are looking for is a closer relationship and a stronger relationship as we can, because it is geo-politically grounded.”
He said, “The specific things we are doing with them is twofold. One, is we have the re-balance so to speak, westward from the United States. They have Act East, which is their strategic approach eastward. These are like two hands grasping one another and that’s a good thing.”
“Second, our defense technology and trade initiative, which is an effort to work with India and to do something they want to do. Which is, they want to improve their technical capabilities of their own defense industry and their own defense capabilities. But they don’t just want to be a buyer. They want to be a co-developer and co-producers. So, they want that kind of relationship,” he added.
Carter further said that the Make in India initiative has provided pace to the defense sector in India. He said, “We are very much aligned in terms of what the government there is trying to do strategically and economically and what we want to do with them defense wise.”
Talking about his visit to India, Carter said, “When I go over there, we got a whole bunch of things that we will be announcing at that time. And I want to announce beforehand, about better, new milestones in this relationship.” In response to a question, Mr Carter acknowledged that he spends ‘a lot of time’ on Indo-US defence ties.
“We also have a lot of common interests geo-politically and geo-strategically. One of them is to keep a good thing going, in the whole Asia-Pacific, or Indo-Asia Pacific region,” he said adding that the US is looking to do more with India.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is expected to visit India in April where he will sign three defense agreements between India and the US.