The US will make India an offer to "co-produce and co-develop" state-of-the-art Javelin infra-red-guided anti-tank missiles during defence secretary Charles 'Chuck' Hagel’s three-day visit. Hagel arrived in New Delhi on Thursday and will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Arun Jaitley on Friday.
The high probability of the US bringing up the Javelin deal springs from US President Barack Obama’s July 7 letter to Modi, in which he sought closer defence and strategic ties and directly made the missile offer to the PM. He also wrote that Hagel would be discussing the Javelin details with his Indian counterparts during his visit.
India is currently looking to buy some 3,600 anti-tank missiles with 900 launchers at a cost of $700 million (Rs 4,284 crore approximately) through the foreign military sales route. The army is in desperate need of an anti-tank missile as the indigenous Nag missile continues to be a work in progress.
Under the Javelin deal, India and US would jointly produce the third-generation FGM-148 missile through transfer of technology (ToT) and jointly develop a fourth-generation missile that can successfully hit a target 2.5km away. The weapon uses fire and forget technology where the launcher locks on to the target via thermal image and guides the missile through infra-red technology without being in the line of sight.
While India is keen on co-production, it wants full transfer of technology and the talks on Friday will be centred on this. “The Javelin makers are willing to do 97% ToT and want to withhold the algorithms related to core infra-red seeker technology,” said a senior defence ministry official.
Hagel is also expected to remind India that the window for purchase of Chinook and Apache helicopters at current rates will close by September. The US, which has kept aside six Boeing C-17 cargo aircraft for possible purchase by India, is extremely concerned about slow decision-making in the Indian defence ministry and Hagel will be looking to find a new equilibrium with Jaitley.
Apart from the Javelin deal, talks with Hagel will centre around a new defence framework agreement for 2015-20, a tri-lateral maritime exercise with Japan, and the regional environment, including the rise of China and the situation in Af-Pak and West Asia.
Maritime security is another top priority for both India and the US in the backdrop of Chinese attempts to acquire long legs in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. With US capabilities declining in the Asia-Pacific and India unable to cope with Beijing on naval upgradation, both sides need each other to maintain the balance of forces in the region.
Hagel's visit follows a similar stop in the country last week by secretary of state John Kerry and commerce secretary Penny Pritzker aimed at wooing a key ally in Asia.