The U.S. road map to “provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and support India’s defense modernization plans.”
The United States is boosting defense cooperation with India as a counterweight to the emerging military alliance between China and Russia. Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed on the road map with his Indian counterpart aimed at modernizing India’s armed forces and the country’s defense manufacturing sector.
“The new roadmap for U.S.-India defense industrial cooperation will fast track technology cooperation and co-production in areas such as air combat and land mobility systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, munitions and the undersea domain, said a U.S. Department of Defense press release,” The Associated Press reported.
With the proposed road map, the U.S. hopes to wean India off its reliance on Russia, which dates back to the soviet-era. “Washington is working to deepen ties with India and sees stronger military-to-military and technology ties with the world’s largest democracy as a key counterweight to China’s dominance in the region,” Reuters reported last week. “It is also seeking to wean New Delhi away from its traditional dependence on Russia for defence supplies.”
The landmark U.S. offer comes as India signs big military deals with Russia and emerges as one of the biggest buyers of Russian oil. “India and Russia … [are] formalizing a plan for the local production of Russian equipment and spare parts,” the U.S. weekly Defense News reported May 4. Russia supplied India with weapons worth $13 billion since 2019, the Russian state-run media recently claimed.
The Indian newspaper Hindustan Times reported on June 6:
India and the United States on Monday announced the conclusion of a new road map for future defence industrial cooperation with the goal of fast-tracking technology cooperation and co-production in critical areas such as air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; munitions, and the undersea domain, in a renewed push for deepening collaboration in the sector during delegation-level talks between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his American counterpart Lloyd J Austin.
In separate statements, the two sides highlighted what the new road map seeks to achieve.
“This initiative aims to change the paradigm for cooperation between US and Indian defense sectors, including a set of specific proposals that could provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and support India’s defense modernization plans,” the US Department of Defense (DoD) said in a statement.
Both sides will identify opportunities for co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defence their start-ups, the Indian defence ministry said after the talks.
The talks covered a raft of areas including manufacturing GE-414 fighter jet engines in the country through transfer of technology, buying hi-tech drones from the US for the Indian military, the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh where India has been locked in a border row with China for over three years, and a free and rules-bound Indo-Pacific region where China is pushing for greater influence, Indian officials tracking the dialogue said, asking not to be named.
India’s military entanglement with Russia continues despite the war in Ukraine. Up to 85 percent of Indian military systems are of Soviet or Russian origin, the DC-based think tank Stimson Center estimated in 2020. Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, the Indian armed forces have taken part in a series of military exercises and war games with the Russian forces.
Besides massive military exports, India’s reliance on Russian energy is also growing. New Delhi’s annual import of crude oil from Russia jumped from 2 percent to 20 percent in 2023. “India’s imports of Russian oil rose tenfold last year, according to Indian state-controlled lender Bank of Baroda,” the BBC reported in May. “The figures show Asia’s third largest economy saved around $5bn (£4bn) as it ramped up crude purchases from Moscow.”
But New Delhi is increasingly wary of Moscow, particularly its military establishment, falling prey to Chinese influence. India is worried about Russian defense secrets falling into Chinese hands, especially those pertaining to air defense. New Delhi has bought the Russian-made S-400 air defense system in the hopes of securing India’s skies from air incursion from neighboring China and Pakistan.
India has a 2100-mile disputed border with China, which Beijing refuses to recognize. China annexed a large part of Indian territory in the war of 1962 and has clashed with the Indian forces in recent years.
Since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is moving towards a military alliance with China. In the wake of U.S. and Western sanctions, Russia has turned to China as its main geostrategic and trading partner. In 2022, the trade between China and Russia reached $190 billion. (Thanks to surging energy exports, Russia’s bilateral trade with India was also at an all-time high with $44 billion during the financial year 2022-2023.)DONATE
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