Paving way for bilateral strategic and security cooperation, India and Germany have signed their first-ever defence pact encompassing joint training, technology transfers and co-production of hi-tech military hardware.
The Indo-German Defence Cooperation agreement, which would help New Delhi broadbase its military equipment suppliers to make arms purchases more competitive, was signed late on Wednesday night by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his German Counterpart Franz Josef Jung.
Though both the leaders refused to elaborate what areas of defence the agreement was aimed at, Jung said it would mostly cover exchange of cooperation in the field of Navy and in electronic and sureviellance systems, in which Germany recently had made big breakthroughs.
German defence industries are keen on participating in major Indian defence projects as they feel Berlin is being left out in the race for Indian defence markets by countries like France and Britain.
Germany is also keen to tap Indian expertise in counter terrorism operations, as recently the German army is being deployed overseas in such operations.
Answering a volley of queries from newsmen after the signing of the pact, Mukherjee said the agreement, which comes into force immediately, provides for setting up of a high defence committee which would work out the areas of cooperation between the two countries.
Prior to the signing of the agreement, Mukherjee held almost a marathon 80-minute one-to-one meeting with Jung during which, sources said, fast unfolding events in Lebanon, situation in south Asia as well as developing an exchange of information on global terrorism came up.
Under the agreement, top level defence officials from the two countries would meet once a year alternatively in Germany and India.
It also envisages the setting up of a bilateral strategic defence cooperation group headed by the joint secretary in the ministry of defence in India and deputy chief of staff, politico-military affairs, German federal Ministry of defence.
The subjects covered by the group would include security and defence policy, diasater relief and other mutually agreed areas.
Another bilateral group would deal with defence technology cooperation and defence business cooperation and would be headed by joint secretary in the acquisition wing of the defence ministry and an armament director on the German side.
The agreement also provides for enhancing exchange of armed forces personnel in each other's military training institutions and making exchanges of visit by senior services personnel.
The German Minister of Defence said that the new high committee would also decide on working out the schedule for conduction of bilateral defence exercises.
After the British and American special forces, German army is also keen to hold joint manoeuvres with Indian special forces in the backdrop of terrorist operations.
The agreement also envisages that the two countries participate in discussion and dialogue on the deployment in United Nations Peacekeeping operations.
Germany is the third major nation after Russia, France and United Kingdom with which India has now finalised a strategic defence and security agreement.
The German defence minister said Berlin looked forward to cooperation with Indian forces deployed in peacekeeping operations in Lebanon.
His remarks assume significance amid reports here that Germany might consider taking up the task of maritime patrolling of the Lebanese coast.
Franz Josef Jung said the question of such a deployment could only come once Beirut made a plea in this connection before the United Nations.
Mukherjee on Thursday addressed Chief Executives of major German Defence industries including from HDW, Rheinmetall and European consortium EADS, where he made strong plea for German industries to invest in the Indian defence sector.