US defence firms must tap into Make in India: Rajnath Singh

Updated on Apr 22, 2022 01:38 AM IST

Defence minister Rajnath Singh’s pitch for increased US participation in the Indian defence sector came amid New Delhi’s renewed thrust on indigenisation of weapons and systems, cutting down military imports and getting a toehold in foreign defence markets.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh addressing American Chamber of Commerce in India. (PTI)
Defence minister Rajnath Singh addressing American Chamber of Commerce in India. (PTI)
By, New Delhi

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday made a fresh pitch to American firms to carry out joint research and development, co-production of systems, and manufacturing and maintenance of military hardware in the country to tap the opportunities under the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ initiative.

“Of late, some US companies have expanded their local presence in partnership with Indian industry to achieve our aim of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’. We believe this is just a beginning,” he said while addressing the members of the American Chamber of Commerce in India.

“With increasing business, we aspire for increased investments by US companies in India. Making full use of the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA), we need to facilitate collaboration and indigenisation of defence technology and boost the participation of US and Indian companies in each other’s defence supply chains,” he said.

The two countries had signed ISA in December 2019 to facilitate the exchange of classified information between their defence industries.

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Singh’s pitch for increased US participation in the Indian defence sector came amid New Delhi’s renewed thrust on indigenisation of weapons and systems, cutting down military imports and getting a toehold in foreign defence markets.

In a renewed push for Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bharat, India has imposed a phased import ban on 310 different weapons and systems during the last two years. These weapons and platforms will be indigenised in phases over the next five to six years.

Singh had earlier said that even under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, there are provisions that provide opportunities to foreign companies to invest, collaborate, set up joint ventures and earn profit.

Singh’s comments also came amid India’s balancing act between Russia and the US following the Ukraine war and Washington’s attempts to wean India away from its dependence on Russian military hardware.

In an interview with HT this month, Singh said the US was aware that India and Russia are “natural allies” and enjoy stable ties. He said at the same time, India would not allow its relationship with a third country to adversely affect US “core national interests”.

Senior US diplomats Donald Lu and Victoria Nuland last month met top Indian officials, including external affairs minister S Jaishankar, in New Delhi with an offer to provide alternatives for the supply of weapons, systems and spares to keep the Indian armed forces battle-ready.

“What the US has offered is not only feasible but also desirable if done the right way. The US can help us by not imposing sanctions for dealing with Russia. It can facilitate spares and maintenance support till such time we are able to do it on our own. And most importantly, they should give us technology in areas where we are struggling, from small arms to jet engines,” said former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd), in response to the US offer.

In his address on Thursday, Singh said that US companies had not only been a source of foreign direct investment and employment in India, but they also contributed to India’s defence exports. He said these exports to the US were worth around $2.5 billion during the last five years and constituted 35% of the total exports during this period.

He said the participation of US firms in joint R&D and industrial collaboration with Indian public and private sectors would be important for the success of Atmanirbhar Bharat and would further strengthen the bilateral relationship.

The minister stressed the need to move from a buyer-seller relationship to one of the partner nations, adding that the two countries were poised to leverage each other’s strengths for a bright future.

“When seen from the perspective of strategic convergence, India and the US share a commitment to democracy, pluralism and rule of law. We have a growing convergence of strategic interests as both countries seek a resilient, rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds democratic values and promotes peace and prosperity for all.”

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