Defence minister Manohar Parrikar will embark on a two-day visit to the United States in December to identify future military hardware technologies and express his concern over Islamabad’s threat to use tactical nuclear weapons against India. This will be his first ever visit to the US as defence minister, and he will meet his counterpart Ashton Carter over December 9 and 10.
Even as Parrikar and Carter are set to review the bilateral defence relationship and discuss measures to strengthen it, Pakistan’s latest admission on tactical nukes has forced the defence ministry to re-examine this neighbourhood threat. According to the Federation of American Scientists, an anti-nuclear proliferation watchdog, Pakistan has expanded its nuclear arsenal to between 110 and 130 warheads. Pakistan foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary recently said his country had developed tactical nuclear weapons to counter any Indian aggression, specifically the Indian military’s cold start doctrine.
Parrikar’s visit will be in the backdrop of media reports of US plans to sell eight F-16 fighters and 15 Bell AH 1Z Viper attack helicopters to Pakistan. He is expected to articulate India’s opposition to this move, but it is understood in New Delhi that Islamabad’s N-flexing is part of its plan to spur the US to push India towards talks, primarily on Kashmir, and reiterate its desire for strategic stability in South Asia.
Parikkar and Carter are to talk about raising the level of bilateral exercises and review the joint working group on aircraft carrier as well as identify technologies that could be acquired by India on government-to-government basis rather than through the laborious Defence Technology and Trade Initiative programme.
In the run-up to Parrikar’s visit, the India-US Defence Policy and Procurement Group will meet in Washington on November 13, with Director General (Acquisition) Asha Ram Sihag leading the Indian side. The India-US Defence Policy Group is to meet on November 17, when defence secretary G Mohan Kumar will meet US undersecretary of defence policy Christine E Wormuth.
Parrikar is also expected to share the Indian perspective on the Pakistan army’s cross-border firing in Jammu and Kashmir as well as its abetment of terrorist infiltration in the Valley. India is ready to discuss terror at the level of national security advisors to address mutual concerns as well as illegal Chinese projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.