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Hawk jets deal ‘procedural’, announcement unlikely on PM’s visit

The expected purchase of 20 Hawk trainer jets for the Indian Air Force is a “procedural issue” and is unlikely to be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Britain, officials said on Friday.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2015 17:21 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Britain Prime Minister David Cameron walks in the garden at Chequers in Buckinghamshire with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in England. Officials said expected purchase of 20 Hawk jets was a “procedural iissue” and is unlikely to be announced during Modi’s three-day visit to UK.
Britain Prime Minister David Cameron walks in the garden at Chequers in Buckinghamshire with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in England. Officials said expected purchase of 20 Hawk jets was a “procedural iissue” and is unlikely to be announced during Modi’s three-day visit to UK. (REUTERS)

The expected purchase of 20 Hawk trainer jets for the Indian Air Force is a “procedural issue” and is unlikely to be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Britain, officials said on Friday.

Modi took up the issue of student visa and the dwindling number of Indian students during talks with his British counterpart David Cameron, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said while briefing journalists on the key points on the first day of the Prime Minister’s three-day visit.

Asked if the purchase of more Hawk trainer jets figured in the talks, as mentioned last week by British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, joint secretary (Europe West) Nandini Singla said: “We have a Defence and International Security Partnership document. It is actually the announcement of an international security partnership and defence partnership, it is a big step forward.”

The document talks about the range of defence cooperation from research to manufacturing, technology transfers, training and the government’s “Make in India” campaign, Singla said.

“So it actually encompasses everything. And it includes deals that are under process but which are really a procedural issue. We cannot really announce something just because we are having a statement,” she added.

The Indian Air Force currently operates around 100 Hawk jets.

Modi noted in the talks that the number of Indian students in Britain’s higher education institutions had fallen by 50% in recent years. This comes at a time when several countries are courting the students for the knowledge, skills and cultures they bring.

The Prime Minister told Cameron Indian students are among the best and brightest in the world, and it would be a win-win partnership for both sides -– Indians needing quality education and Britain benefiting from expertise that Indian students bring to the UK.

Singla said: “The Prime Minister actually said we are right now in a situation where countries are actually wooing Indian students because India is the biggest education market today. There is a burgeoning middle class, there is an aspirational upper class that wants to educate its kids abroad; and he said it is an opportunity to actually tap into what has become a big economic market.”

She said there is “lot of understanding and appreciation” from the British side on the issue, but it is a matter for “continued discussion”.

Singla added: “I do not think we closed the chapter on this.”