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Lift defence export curbs: Antony

world Updated: Sep 27, 2010 23:45 IST
Yashwant Raj

New Delhi is hoping to convince the US to remove controls on defence exports to India, for long a major drag on constantly improving ties between the two countries.

“We want an early solution to that (export control restrictions),” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters ahead of his talks here.

The issue has been top of the agenda for India — figuring prominently in recent talks between the two countries.

It was raised first during foreign secretary Nirupama Rao’s talks held here to prepare the ground for President Barack Obama’s visit in November, and during Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s talks.

For now, there is no word on it from the US side. “We will definitely have more to we approach the President’s visit,” said a US official.

The other issue that Antony said he plans to raise was of Pakistan using against India arms and weapons it got from America for fighting insurgents in its northwestern areas.

The US imposed controls

on defence exports to India

following Pokhran II nuclear tests in 1998, making government clearance mandatory for export of dual-use technology (which can be used also for defence purposes).

Antony reached here late Saturday night with a delegation comprising Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, chief of Eastern Army Command Lt Gen. Bikram Singh, Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command Vice-Admiral D.K. Joshi and director general air operations of the IAF Air Marshal A.K. Gogoi.

Anotny will be meeting his US counterpart Robert Gates, National Security Adviser James Jones and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

The US is also keen to bag a multi-billion deal for a fighter jet put out on the market by India.

“They (India) have a big competition going on for a new modern fighter,” Gates said, adding,, “We’ll probably have some conversations about that.”

Sure, said Antony on Sunday. But no more, no commitments. “It is a multi-vendor-situation. Trials are over. I can’t say who will get it,” the minister said.

The deal is said to be worth about $10 billion. And when

trials started in 2009, there were six main competitors: American F/A 18, Swedish Saab, American F 16, French Rafale, Russian MiG 35 and European Typhoon.