India-US roadmap for defence industrial cooperation focus area of PM Modi’s visit

Jun 19, 2023 07:55 PM IST

PM Modi will begin his visit by participating in international yoga day celebrations at UN headquarters in New York on June 21

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US is set to take forward the roadmap for defence industrial cooperation, which envisages greater links between defence industries and research organisations of the two sides, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Monday.

Indian-Americans raise slogans to send a message of welcome to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his US visit. (PTI photo)
Indian-Americans raise slogans to send a message of welcome to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his US visit. (PTI photo)

The visit should be seen more in the context of forging links for joint development and production of military platforms and collaboration in critical technologies, and not individual defence deals, Kwatra told a briefing on the prime minister’s visit to the US and Egypt beginning June 21.

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Reports have suggested India and the US are expected to unveil forward movement on crucial defence deals, including those for manufacturing GE Aviation’s F414 engine and for acquiring 31 MQ-9 weaponised drones, during Modi’s visit.

Senior US officials have spoken of progress in closer collaboration in developing and manufacturing semiconductors.

Also Read: ‘Milestone in our relations’: 5 things foreign secy said on PM Modi’s US visit

When Kwatra was asked about formal announcements regarding these deals during Modi’s state visit at the invitation of US President Joe Biden, he replied the relationship shouldn’t be seen from the narrow aspect of deals for military gear.

The defence industrial production roadmap will “hopefully be one of the very key outcomes during this visit”, he said.

The roadmap focuses on joint development and production of hardware, closer cooperation between defence industrial eco-systems, and a better interface between defence industrial supply lines.

While the India-US defence relationship is diverse and comprehensive, the new aspect is how defence companies can improve cooperation, he said. Kwatra described defence ties as “very robust and very dynamic” and said the two sides conduct several bilateral and regional military exercises. There are staff-to-staff engagements between the armed forces and India is an “important deployer” of US equipment and platforms.

The roadmap for US-India defence industrial cooperation was unveiled at a meeting between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his American counterpart Lloyd Austin earlier this month. The roadmap will fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in air combat and land mobility systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, munitions, and the undersea domain.

The initiative aims to change the paradigm for cooperation between the defence sectors of the two sides, including specific proposals to provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and to support its defence modernisation. Experts have said the move is linked to Washington’s plans to wean New Delhi away from its dependence on Russian weapon systems, which make up more than 60% of the inventory of the Indian military.

Modi will begin his visit by participating in international yoga day celebrations at UN headquarters in New York on June 21.

He will meet personalities and leaders in New York, before travelling to Washington the same day. His first engagement in Washington will be an event on skilling for the future, to be followed by a private engagement with Biden.

On June 22, Modi will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the White House before holding one-on-one and delegation-level meetings with Biden. He will address a joint session of the US Congress and attend a ceremonial state dinner hosted by Biden.

The following day, Modi will have one-on-one interactions with leading CEOs before attending a luncheon hosted by vice president Kamala Harris and secretary of state Antony Blinken. He will interact with professional personalities and leaders at the Kennedy Centre and also meet with Indian diaspora leaders.

Asked about reports of planned protests during the trip, Kwatra said all aspects of the prime minister’s foreign visits, including those related to security and administrative arrangements, are handled by appropriate agencies. “They will do what is required to be done,” he said.

“We sense deep and widespread positive interest in the visit in the US...We are determined and targeted to move to the new domains of the strategic partnership, which are crucial not just for partnership between our two societies, two countries and two systems but which would be net positive contributors to developments in the world,” he said.

Kwatra said India will focus on the interests and concerns of the Global South in the context of any discussions regarding the country’s G20 presidency, since the developing countries remain unrepresented in the grouping of 20 largest economies.

Asked if he expected the situation in Myanmar to figure in the talks, Kwatra said India’s position on this issue “has been very clear and the US side appreciates that position”.

Modi’s first visit to Egypt, also the first bilateral trip by an Indian prime minister since 1997, is aimed at continuing the momentum in ties and opening new areas for cooperation in trade and investment, Kwatra said.

While in Cairo, Modi will interact with the “India Unit”, a group of senior Egyptian ministers set up by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to boost relations.

He will interact with the Indian community and visit Al-Hakim mosque, which has been renovated by the Dawoodi Bohra community, and the Heliopolis war cemetery to pay tribute to Indian soldiers killed in World War 1. The visit will be capped by bilateral talks with Sisi and the signing of several agreements.

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