Manohar Parrikar on Thursday became the first Indian defence minister to get a ride on a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in a sign of growing defence ties between the two countries.
The minister spent nearly four hours on the sprawling aircraft carrier, USS Dwight D Eisenhower, with US secretary of defence Ash Carter and their respective delegations.
He got to poke around the carrier, watch fighter jets land and take off. “We could experience the technology and the speed at which things can be done,” Parrikar said of the experience.
India and the United States are currently discussing jointly developing a next generation of aircraft carriers under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
Parrikar and Carter commended progress made on this front in a joint statement encapsulating the minister’s four-day visit, his first as the defence minister, and their discussion.
Parikkar started his US visit as guest of honour at a Pearl Harbor commemorative event at US Pacific Command’s headquarters in Hawaii, which was another first for an Indian defence minister.
Both Parrikar and Carter spoke of growing defence ties between the two countries at a news briefing on Thursday, noting specially under the present Indian government.
They noted progress on co-development of jet engine technology, another DTTI project, and “committed to identifying additional projects for possible co-development“.
Parrikar told reporters later his biggest take-away from the visit was building “trust” and the assurance that “India is placed at a level which would ensure that the red-tapism is cut”.
“I think that is the biggest assurance one can get, the biggest take-away,” the minister said. This was his third meeting with Carter, who is known to be bullish on ties with India.
As deputy secretary of defence, under Leon Panetta, Carter had led a group tasked with removing impediments from the path of greater India-US defence trade, specially on technology.
On his part, Parrikar informed his US counterpart, according to the joint statement, of “several reforms (that) have been taken in the Indian defence sector” under Make in India initiative.
Specially thorny for US defence suppliers was the “offset” clause, under which foreign companies are mandated to transfer technology or invest 30% of the value of the contract in India.
The defence minister said that issue has been addressed.
The two officials also discussed terrorism in the global and regional context — “including the threat posed by ISIL and entities such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company, the Haqqani Network”.