India and the US will explore ways to expand defence ties "beyond a buyer-seller relationship to a joint partnership in design, development and production" when the top leaders of the two countries meet this week in Washington DC.
Future defence projects between the two countries are expected to include both co-development and co-production.
The Obama administration, ahead of Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit, has offered India collaboration in its Javelin Anti-tank Guided Missile (ATGM) project, apart from proposing to give access to latest defence technologies which Washington has made available only to its closest allies, reported by FE earlier.
The only defence procurement proposal likely to be signed with the US during the September 27 meeting is the Indian order for six additional C-130J military aircraft costing around $ 1.5 billion.
Though the MoD was silent on the military technologies that the US offered at the meeting, the US had reportedly listed the offers, such as the Javelin ATGM, in a letter to the defence ministry
According to MEA officials, “India is interested in intensifying cooperation between its home ministry and the US Department of Homeland Security to "enhance capacity building, in policing of large cities, partnerships in security technologies, combating counterfeit currency and in securing ports, airports and land border terminals”.
"Jargons such as 'transformation', 'next step in strategic partnership', 'from buyer-seller to joint development relationship' frequently used by our experts notwithstanding, the India-US defence relations have witnessed one-sided development, heavily favouring the US in the last few years. More specifically, within the larger defence relations, it is the defence industrial partnership, which has created much discomfort for both countries, “ observed Deba Mohanty, chairman & chief knowledge officer, Indicia Research & Advisory (IRA).
“Despite all tall claims, it is a fact that all of India's military acquisitions from the US have been under FMS route, effectively ruling out any meaningful sharing of technology or knowledge to India.”
As US deputy defence secretary Ashton Carter recently said: "They (India) don't want to just buy our stuff. They want to build our stuff with us and they want to develop new things with us, and they want to do research with us."
“Even industry-to-industry partnership between the two countries have actually been held hostage to respective domestic exports and industrial laws as well as international regimes. When the impression is that we are engaged much deeply than ever with the Americans, the existing ground reality is that defence industrial relationship has still been a 'buyer-seller' one and unless rules of engagement are drastically remodeled to bring in mutual benefits, a joint-production and joint- development defence industrial model is likely to remain a dream. This suits the Americans for obvious reasons" pointed out Mohanty.
The two sides want to streamline their administrative processes and make bilateral defence trade more responsive and effective.
The C-130J from the Lockheed Martin stable will be bought as part of a government-to-government agreement between India and the US signed in February 2008 for R5,500 crore.