Extending quiet support to India regarding the abduction of 39 Punjab labourers by ISIS terrorists in Mosul, the US has sent Iraq situation reports since June 24 through institutionalised channels and has activated drones over territory held by Sunni fighters to locate abductors.
South block officials said that US defence secretary Charles ‘Chuck’ Hagel called his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley last Monday and inquired about the Iraq crisis. He has also expressed his desire to visit India by the second week of August to meet the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
While Hagel did not apparently discuss micro-details about the abduction, it is understood that US defence department has offered all support to their Indian counterparts including help in location, negotiation and evacuation. The situation reports sent by the US also gives details about ISIS’ terrorist movement in northern Iraq as well the roads and airports under their control. The kidnapped labourers have been located in a warehouse in Mosul with a Red Crescent negotiator in touch with the abductors on a daily basis through a third party, senior officials said.
Although Republican senator John McCain is arriving in New Delhi on July 2, Hagel wants to pitch for a defence relationship with India that goes beyond sale and purchase of hardware. “Both sides are looking beyond the 2013 defence technology initiative as there is a need to jointly develop technology that leads to asset creation in India and not just concentrates on buying weapons,” a senior Indian official said.
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However, on the hardware sale side, Washington is looking for sale of 200 Honeywell engines for Indian Jaguar fighters worth $2 billion, $1.3 billion worth of Chinook and Apache helicopters and M-777 ultra light howitzers for Army worth around $647 million.
“There is a need to speed up acquisitions as the plan to acquire six additional C-17 heavy-lift aircraft has come to naught with the American company closing down the assembly line,” said a Washington-based analyst.
Full coverage: Iraq on the brink