Ex­pec­ta­tions from Obama visit

Over the past decade, the US has bagged de­fence deals worth $10 bil­lion dis­plac­ing Rus­sia from the top po­si­tion in the last three years


There is ex­cite­ment in the air about the im­pend­ing visit of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama later this month. He will spend about two-and-a-half hours as chief guest at the Repub­lic Day pa­rade on Jan­uary 26, break­ing the laid down se­cu­rity pro­to­col for a US Pres­i­dent limited to 20 min­utes in the open. That it is the sec­ond visit by Obama to In­dia and first by any US Pres­i­dent at the Repub­lic Day pa­rade is well known.

Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry at­tended the Vi­brant Gu­jarat Sum­mit and later met Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi at New Delhi. US Un­der Sec­re­tary for Ac­qui­si­tion, Tech­nol­ogy and Lo­gis­tics ar­rives on Jan­uary 22. Obama’s visit is ex­pected to wit­ness ink­ing of a new 10-year de­fence frame­work tak­ing the 2005 De­fence Frame­work Agree­ment signed by De­fence Min­is­ters of both coun­tries to the next level. The de­fence frame­work pact of 2005 had out­lined agenda rang­ing from the new 10-year bi­lat­eral de­fence frame­work is to out­line a se­ries of steps to bol­ster the de­fence part­ner­ship in­clud­ing up­grad­ing scope and in­ten­sity of joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, closer co­op­er­a­tion in in­tel­li­gence shar­ing for coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism, mar­itime se­cu­rity, coun­ter­ing pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tions (WMDs) and, sig­nif­i­cantly, in­cor­po­ra­tion of the De­fense Trade and Tech­nol­ogy Ini­tia­tive (DTTI) aug­ment­ing the ex­ist­ing mech­a­nism of the In­doUS De­fence Plan­ning Group that has been meet­ing ev­ery six months post-9/11.

It may be re­called that the DTTI was for­malised in Septem­ber 2013 when Ash­ton Carter (now De­fense Sec­re­tary), then Deputy Sec­re­tary for De­fense, had led a del­e­ga­tion to New Delhi and the US had of­fered 10 tech­nolo­gies to In­dia. The is­sue also came up in 2014 dur­ing the visit of then US De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel to In­dia but ap­par­ently some is­sues have yet to be ironed out; per­haps in ad­di­tion to red tape on both sides, also lack of clar­ity about the ini­tia­tive it­self. The high point of De­fense Sec­re­tary Hagel’s visit to In­dia is the of­fer he made last week of joint devel­op­ment of seven de­fence tech­nolo­gies.

The DTTI rep­re­sents US com­mit­ment to build an in­dige­nous In­dian industrial base by pre-screen­ing projects for co-pro­duc­tion, and even­tu­ally, code­vel­op­ment. There are over 20 items rang­ing from anti-tank mis­siles to launch sys­tems for air­craft car- ri­ers that the US has of­fered to In­dia un­der DTTI. The two coun­tries are set­ting up a task force to quickly eval­u­ate and de­cide on unique projects and tech­nolo­gies which will have a trans­for­ma­tive im­pact on bi­lat­eral de­fence re­la­tions and en­hance In­dia’s de­fence in­dus­try and mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Over the past decade, the US has bagged de­fence deals worth $10 bil­lion dis­plac­ing Rus­sia from the top po­si­tion in the last three years. Other deals in the pipe­line in­clude: 22 Apache attack he­li­copters at the cost of $1.4 bil­lion; 15 Chi­nook heavy-lift he­li­copters at the cost of $1.1 bil­lion; and, four ad­di­tional P-81 mar­itime pa­trol air­craft cost­ing $1 bil­lion. It is ob­vi­ous that the In­dian side would like those US com­pa­nies to par­tic­i­pate in the DTTI who al­ready have joint ven­tures with In­dian com­pa­nies, bring­ing in for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment (FDI) and that tech­nolo­gies com­ing ini­tially should also be open to be­ing ex­ported for long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of such projects.

En­ergy se­cu­rity too will be high on agenda. It is ob­vi­ous that the geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion will be dis­cussed be­tween Pres­i­dent Obama and Prime Min­is­ter Modi, some of which may be be­hind closed doors. Aside from push­ing for more sales in In­dian mar­kets in­clud­ing in the de­fence sec­tor, the US would be more fo­cused on the Indo-Pa­cific, seek­ing en­hanced co­op­er­a­tion by In­dia. The US may even still try to push for In­dia join­ing the US-led Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile De­fense (BMD) net­work and the Pro­lif­er­a­tion Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive (PSI) bandwagon and ink­ing foun­da­tional mil­i­tary agree­ments like the Lo­gis­tics Sup­port Agree­ment (LSA), Com­mu­ni­ca­tion In­ter­op­er­abil­ity and Se­cu­rity Mem­o­ran­dum Agree­ment (CISMOA) and Ba­sic Ex­change and Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment (BECA)—all of which In­dia has re­sisted in the past.

From the In­dian view­point, US look­ing askance at Pak­istan’s proxy war on In­dia and con­tin­u­ing mil­i­tary and fi­nan­cial aid to Pak­istan, col­lu­sive China-Pak­istan threat to In­dia, pos­si­ble Chi­nese mis­sile de­ploy­ments in Gil­git-Baltistan to sup­port op­er­a­tions in the In­dian Ocean re­gion (IOR), and sta­bil­ity of the Af-Pak re­gion, Mid­dle East and Iran are im­por­tant is­sues that need se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion to evolve com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach suit­ing na­tional in­ter­ests of both coun­tries. Such fo­cused dis­cus­sions ap­proach are vi­tal to take the Indo-US strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion to the re­quired level.

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