India set to clear $2 billion deal for US anti-submarine warfare choppers
Ahead of the crucial two-plus-two dialogue in Washington, the Narendra Modi government is expected to approve a $2-billion deal for the purchase of anti-submarine warfare helicopters for the Indian Navy from the US through the government to government (G2G) route, according to South Block officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Bilateral negotiations on the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) have moved forward and the military communication agreement could be initialed later this year after basic Indian concerns have been addressed by the Pentagon, these officials added.
The foreign and defence ministers of India will meet their US counterparts in Washington on July 6.
South Block officials said the Defence Acquisition Council is scheduled to meet on June 30 to give a final approval to the purchase of US Sikorsky S-70B multi-role helicopters.
While the navy needs at least 100 such multi-role helicopters, the government has decided to go for the outright purchase of 24 anti-submarine warfare helicopters from US.
There is also the possibility of India placing a follow-up order for 12 more Boeing P 8I maritime surveillance aircraft at a later stage for the Indian Navy in a bid to boost its reconnaissance capabilities on high seas, the officials added.
Although preparations for the two plus two dialogue have begun in the earnest in Delhi, the COMCASA agreement will have to wait for later this year after the Indian side conveyed some concerns on the foundational agreement related to military operations. While both sides have broadly agreed to the text of the key foundational agreement, visiting senior Pentagon official Joseph Felter was briefed about India’s concerns and the way forward. The meetings on COMCASA took place on June 19-20.
Senior government officials did not rule out the possibility of US Defence Secretary James Mattis visiting India later this year to sign the COMCASA agreement.
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