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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

US opens defence arsenal to India, 7 offers on table

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri and Sanjib Baruah, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 09, 2014
First Published: 18:38 IST(9/8/2014) | Last Updated: 12:12 IST(10/8/2014)

Seven new defence technologies for joint development have been offered by US defence secretary Chuck Hagel in meetings with his Indian counterparts, say Indian and US sources.

Hagel –on a three-day visit to India -- alluded to one of them, big data, in a Saturday speech on bilateral defence relations and spoke of “over a dozen concrete proposals” being on the table. Sources say the United States has also offered a number of cyber security options to India.

One of the key offers, big data — in which US leads the world — involves employing path-breaking algorithms to help predict terrorist attacks and for smart surveillance, such as using family relationships to find the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. Other technologies on the table include the cutting edge anti-tank Javelin missile, the Hawk 21 surface-to-air missile and magnetic catapults, which help larger planes take off from smaller ships.

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The defence secretary’s mission was to revive Indo-US defence relations, especially the moribund two-year-old defence trade and technology initiative (DTTI).

“The DTTI is the centrepiece of our defence relationship,” said Hagel at the event organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

Under the DTTI, the US had asked India to join in co-producing and co-developing a series of cutting edge weapons and technologies. Though the US offered 10 weapons technologies, the programme failed to take off under the last government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to put the private sector in the front seat of India’s defence sector and reduce the country’s dependence on imported arms. With the private sector insisting on the need for foreign technology, the US’s joint weapons development offers are seen as a potential match for both sides.

Read: US, India must improve defence cooperation, says Chuck Hagel

Hagel held a roundtable with India Inc on Saturday evening. In contrast, the UPA government kept the Indian private sector at a distance from the DTTI, said industry sources.

Implementation, however, remains a concern, say sources. Hagel, too, warned against “red tape” on both sides getting in the way of building military industrial cooperation.

He also spoke of the need for “greater clarity” on the offsets needed under the new 49% FDI in defence policy.

Hagel noted the US has not proposed such a co-development, co-production programme “with any other country”.

Read: A tea-seller's son can head a country only in India, US, says Hagel

In addition, the defence secretary said he had invited Jaitley to meet other US ministers in September to discuss a new bilateral defence framework as the existing five-year agreement expires next year.

Hagel also praised ailing former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh for transforming Indo-US bilateral ties.

“Our thoughts are with Jaswant Singh who is one of India’s most distinguished soldier-statesmen. He transformed India-US relations,” said Hagel.  The former BJP leader has been hospitalized since Friday and is in a critical condition.


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