US President Donald Trump unveils $3 billion military copter pact
US President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled plans for the sale of military helicopters worth more than $3 billion to India, saying Washington should be New Delhi’s “premier defence partner” as his country revitalises military alliances across the world.
Addressing the “Namaste Trump” rally at Motera Stadium, Trump dwelt at length on the burgeoning defence ties between the two countries, and said the US had spent $2.5 trillion to rebuild its armed forces and make it the “most powerful military anywhere in the world”.
Defence and security ties between India and the US have grown sharply in recent decades as foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said last week that New Delhi has acquired American military hardware worth more than $18 billion to significantly enhance defence preparedness.
“I am pleased to announce that our representatives will sign deals to sell over $3 billion in the absolute finest, state-of-the-art helicopters to the Indian armed forces,” Trump said. “I believe the US should be India’s premier defence partner... Together, we will defend our sovereignty, security and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region for our children...,” he said.
Though Trump did not give details of the deals he spoke of, it has been widely reported that the two countries are expected to sign a $2.6-billion deal for 24 MH-60R helicopters for the Indian Navy, and a follow-on order for six Apache attack helicopters worth some $800 million.
Defence ties between the two sides have remained robust with the militaries of India and the US conducting a series of exercises whose scope and complexity have increased over the years. Experts say these exercises have also helped increase interoperability between the two militaries.
Trump, too, spoke of the importance of defence cooperation, saying the “critical partnership took a major turn when the US military and brave Indian armed forces conducted the first ever air, land and sea exercises” called “Tiger Triumph”. He said the US is keen on providing India “some of the best and most-feared military equipment”, ranging from aeroplanes and missiles to ships, advanced air defence systems, and armed and unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles.
Centre for Air Power Studies additional director general Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd) said there was a transformation taking place in the Indian military from Russian-origin equipment to that from the US. “While it is good that relatively modern technologies are being acquired (relative, because no country gives the latest), it also should serve as a sobering thought that the situation is proof of failure of our indigenisation drive. The geo-political cards need to be played with dexterity to leverage these extremely expensive purchases to serve as stepping stones to develop home grown tech - there is no other way but to go desi...”