As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for his state visit to the United States, bilateral cooperation, defense collaborations, and critical technology discussions have intensified between the two countries.
On June 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the United States. Prior to the visit, bilateral and defense cooperation discussions have begun between the two countries.
On June 14, NSA Ajit Doval engaged in bilateral discussions with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, with the presence of US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti and CDS Anil Chouhan. The talks were limited to specific topics concerning regional and global matters that are of mutual interest. The primary focus of the meeting was the planning and arrangements for Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming official state visit to the United States, scheduled for later this month. Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor, is currently in India on a two-day visit.
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Notably, US defense trade with India has increased from virtually zero in 2008 to over $20 billion by 2020. The United States has supplied India with long-range maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, missiles, and drones.
Let’s explore the major developments and expectations centering PM Modi’s visit-
Progress on iCET
During the June 13 meeting in India between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his US counterpart Jake Sullivan, a variety of bilateral issues were discussed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also disclosed that the two NSAs evaluated the progress of the India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) and set new priorities and objectives for the initiative. The iCET has facilitated collaboration between India and the United States in fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, Semiconductors, Telecommunications, Defense, and Space since its inception in May 2022.
In order to launch the Indo-US quantum coordination mechanism, the two countries have inked an MOU on semiconductors. The NSAs have encouraged stakeholders to pursue technology value chain partnerships that promote the co-development and co-production of high-tech products and services in India and the United States. The dialogue was attended by prominent representatives from academia and industry from both countries.
NSA Director Sullivan also met with Indian Prime Minister Modi to provide an update on the development of bilateral cooperation in various sectors. Modi anticipated a fruitful visit and productive discussions with President Biden on bilateral, regional, and international issues of mutual interest.
It is anticipated that the discussions and interactions between the two NSAs will strengthen the India-US partnership, particularly in the domain of critical and emerging technologies.
US pushing for progress on armed drones deal
The United States is well aware of India’s desire to purchase armed drones from American manufacturers. However, bureaucratic obstacles have impeded progress on the contract for General Atomics’ MQ-9B SeaGuardian armed drones. The transaction, estimated to be worth between $2 billion and $3 billion, has been blocked for years by Indian bureaucratic procedures.
To break the bureaucratic deadlock and initiate the foreign military sale procedure, an “Acceptance of Necessity” document, which serves as a precursor to a formal “Letter of Request,” needs to be generated. The number of drones that India intends to acquire has been a topic of discussion, with initial estimates of 30 being revised to 24 and then to 18 in recent months.
In advance of Modi’s visit, the US State Department, Pentagon, and White House have asked India to demonstrate progress on the agreement.
Roadmap for defense industry cooperation with focus on technology and co-production
The recent encounter between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on June 5 resulted in the finalization of a roadmap for cooperation in the defense industry. To counterbalance China’s influence in the region, the United States seeks to strengthen military ties with India and increase technological cooperation. India is the largest importer of armaments in the world.
The agreement was reached weeks before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official state visit to Washington and negotiations with President Joe Biden.
According to a statement from the Indian defense ministry, the talks between Singh and Austin centered on identifying measures to strengthen industrial cooperation.
“Both sides will identify opportunities for co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defense start-up ecosystems of the two countries,” it said.
“Towards these objectives, they concluded a roadmap for US-India Defense Industrial Cooperation which shall guide the policy direction for the next few years,” it added.
India, the largest importer of weapons in the world, seeks to diversify its defense supplies and increase its domestic manufacturing capacity. As part of this strategy, the US-India Defense Policy Group met in Washington, DC, last month to discuss joint production and manufacturing of combat aircraft engines, infantry combat vehicles, howitzers, and their precision ordnance. Also on the agenda was the joint production and manufacture of high-altitude, long-endurance armed drones, which could be deployed along India’s borders with China and Pakistan.
Potential challenges and considerations
Despite the positive momentum in bilateral and defense cooperation, a number of prospective challenges and factors must be addressed.
Russia’s defense ties:
The United States has been concerned about India’s longstanding defense relations with Russia. Despite the expanding partnership between India and the United States, Washington has expressed surprise at India’s continued defense procurement from Russia. The Biden administration is eager for India to reduce its reliance on Russian military supplies and more closely align itself with American interests. This issue will require delicate diplomacy and awareness of India’s historical ties with Russia in order to be resolved.
Finalizing the number of drones:
The Indian defense ministry has not yet made a definitive determination regarding the number of armed drones it intends to acquire. The number was initially fixed at 30, then revised to 24 and reduced to 18. This lack of determination creates uncertainty and complicates the negotiations; hence the US is pushing for a concrete deal in an attempt to reduce China’s influence.
Domestic manufacturing requirements:
India desires to produce equipment components domestically, a demand that could confound the agreement. India’s intention to improve its domestic defense manufacturing capabilities is comprehensible but may necessitate technology transfers, joint ventures, and extensive collaboration with U.S. firms. In order to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, it will be crucial to strike a balance between India’s desire for self-sufficiency and the need for US participation in domestic production.
In conclusion, Modi’s visit to the United States is significant for both countries. The discussions are anticipated to strengthen the strategic partnership between India and the United States, with a focus on defense cooperation and overcome the potential challenges in the process. The United States views India as a vital ally in countering China and Russia’s influence, while India seeks to bolster its defense capabilities and encourage domestic defense manufacturing.