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By Bulbul Singh

02 Aug 12. Threatened by cut in defence expenditure in the years ahead, and its resultant adverse impact on U.S. defence industry and the workforce there, Washington has taken two steps forward with New Delhi in defence cooperation to facilitate additional defence orders from here. The U.S. authorities have formally told the Indian government that they are willing to substantially lower barriers for defence technology transfer to India and even join hands with Indian scientists to design, and develop new generation weapons and equipment.

“Washington wants to outstrip Russia in defence sales to India and will do everything possible suitable to achieve that,” said a diplo0mat of the U.S. Embassy here.

The U.S. offer to India was made during last month’s visit to New Delhi by Deputy Secretary of Defense, USA, Ashton B Carter. One of the defence projects amongst many is the joint development of Ballistic Missile defence systems (BMD).

India is currently developing its own ballistic missile defence system called the Prithvi Air Defence System (PAD) which has been developed with the help of the Israelis. There is room for another air defence project like the PAD said an official here. The system for joint development offered is the Patriot anti-ballistic missile system.

However India wants to enter into the joint development of an anti-cruise missile project which it wants to incorporate in the PAD system. In fact diplomatic talks and technical-level interaction had been taken place between India and United States for several years on the joint development of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).

Missile defence was one of the potential areas for strategic partnership identified in the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in January 2004. Carter told Defence Minister A K Antony during talks here that Washington is prepared to offer latest hi-tech defence projects to India and is also ready to change its technology transfer rules to accommodate India’s demands Carter had informed Antony.

However, Washington wants India to increase the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit in defence from the current level of 26 per cent to 49 per cent, though it is no condition for improving the defence ties between India and the United States.

In the last five years India has bought weapons and equipment worth over $8 billion including the purchase of C-17 aircraft for over $4 billion, purchase of Long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft P8I from Boeing for over $2 billion, C-130J aircraft for over $1billion and purchase of light Howitzer guns for $500 million A repeat order for C-130J, C-17 is in the pipeline.

The Americans have also won the $1 billion tender from Indian Air Force for purchase of 22 Attack helicopter as the American AH-64D beat the Russian Mi-28N helicopters.

The Americans are also in the running for another helicopter tender for the purchase of 12 heavy transport helicopters with the Russian Mi-26T2 and the American CH-47F Chinook helicopters in competition.

Observers here said the threat to the American defence industry is real and they have to bank on India and other importers to prevent close downs The U.S. production line for C-17 transport aircraft faces closure after the order for Indian 10 C-17 transport aircraft is executed in 2014. The U.S. authorities want more orders for C-17 aircraft to give an additional breather to the assembly line and around 5000 jobs attached to the facility. The U.S. authorities are also eyeing additional orders for P8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft as Indian Navy requires over 25 such aircraft for its long coastline. India contracted purchase of 8 P8I aircraft in 2009 for use by Indian Navy for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.

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