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US to rejig its defence department to boost military ties with India

Trump administration is creating two under secretary level posts in the department of defence to strengthen military ties with India

india Updated: Aug 21, 2017 21:51 IST
Rahul Singh
Trump administration is creating new positions in the US defence department  to enhance military ties with India
Trump administration is creating new positions in the US defence department to enhance military ties with India (AFP File Photo )

The US government in a report to the Congress said it is creating new positions in the department of defence (DoD) to strengthen its military ties with India.

Two new under secretary level posts will come up by February 2018 to steer the defence technology and trade initiative (DTTI) that seeks to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to cooperation and identify opportunities for sharing of defence technologies, said the July report.

The report was submitted jointly by DoD and the department of state, underlining different aspects of the ties, including military exercises, cyber security, technology security and India being designated a major defence partner of the United States.

Established in 2012, the DTTI seeks to identify opportunities for co-development and co-production of military hardware, collaborate on science and technology projects and jointly explore policy changes needed to further the military relationship.

The report on enhancing defence and security cooperation with India is a follow up to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) passed in December 2016.

The NDAA had set a six-month deadline for the secretaries of the two departments to give their report on issues dealing with transfer of advanced technology, strengthening of the DTTI and resolving all pending issues impeding India-US defence trade.

Since 2014, the DoD’s efforts under the DTTI have been led by the under secretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics (USD-AT&L).

“The NDAA for FY 2017 also directs the department to reorganise the office of the USD (AT&L) into two new under secretary positions - one for research and engineering (USD-R&E) and one for acquisition and sustainment (USD-A&S). This change will take effect no later than February 2018,” the report said.

The NDAA outlined that the DTTI leadership would consist of an individual with experience in acquisition and technology to ensure the success of the US-India defence relationship. The DoD had established an exclusive India Rapid Reaction Cell in 2015 to support the DTTI.

Since 2008, India has bought or ordered military equipment worth $15 billion from the US, including C-130J special operations planes, C-17 transport aircraft, P-8I submarine hunter planes, Harpoon missiles, Apache and Chinook helicopters and M777 lightweight howitzers.

Last week, India gave nod to a $650-million proposal to buy six Apache AH-64E attack helicopters for the Indian Army from the US.

India has spent more than $100 billion on buying new weapons and systems during 2008-17, with imports accounting for around 60-65% of the country’s military requirements.

At $15 billion, military purchases from the US have consumed more than a fourth of the total capital expenditure for the last decade.

The Trump administration is supporting US military contractors exploring the possibility of setting up production lines for single and twin-engine fighter jets in India.

“These proposals (for F-16 Block 70 fighters and F/A-18 jets) will help create and maintain jobs in both countries and demonstrate the depth of our commitment to defence cooperation,” the report said.

The US government’s decision to supply Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles, manufactured by General Atomics, to the Indian Navy is one of the major developments that has taken place after the NDAA was passed.

The deal for 22 such UAVs is expected to be worth $2 billion.