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Key Indo-US defence meeting postponed; army chief on US visit

india Updated: Dec 03, 2013 00:49 IST
Shishir Gupta

The Indo-US defence engagement looks all set to be taken forward by the next government with the high-level Defence Policy Group (DPG) meeting on December 4-6 in Washington postponed at the behest of the Obama administration. The postponement comes after the deputy secretary of defence Ashton Carter, who was assiduously handling the Indian account, demitted office on November 30.

Senior officials said that the name of former US under-secretary of Navy Robert Orton Work is doing the rounds as the next US deputy secretary of defence. A former Marine, Work demitted office at the Navy in March 2013.

While the South Block is trying to fix a new date for the meeting in February 2014 to be headed by defence secretary R K Mathur and US under-secretary of defence James Miller, the chances of date finalisation are minimal till a new deputy secretary of defence is appointed by president Barack Obama. Even the the apex Senior Technology Security Group (STSG), which is headed by secretary (defence production) G C Pati from the Indian side is not likely to meet with the defence ministry planning to club all the bilateral meetings together. The last meeting of the umbrella DPG took place in September 2012.

While India has been outright purchasing arms through the foreign military sales route from the US, the defence ministry seems reluctant towards joint ventures with the American defence contractors or moving towards bilateral exercises involving complex manoeuvres. This is partly due to the historical baggage of the cold war and partly due to the assumption that China may misconstrue the moves as India moving into the US camp.

Meanwhile, Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh is on an official trip to US from December 2 to 6. He will be inducted in the hall of fame at the US College of Combat, where he is an alumnus. Singh is also scheduled to meet the US army chief and the under-secretary of army and will have first-hand experience of weapon systems that the military is looking for. This includes Javelin anti-tank guided missile and M-777 155 mm ultra-light field howtizers.