It is likely that interaction between the Indian and US air forces may scale up another notch, with the US air force chief General T Michael Moseley extending an invitation to his Indian counterpart to take part in the prestigious annual Red Flag exercises, in which Western air forces routinely participate. Moseley said that his invitation has been accepted. The participation may take place in a year or two, at either the Nevada or Alaska US air force bases.
CNBC-TV18, who spoke to General Moseley, said that the American air chief's revelation about the invitation, as well as his related comments with respect to future cooperation between the two air forces appeared to be a pitch for the US candidates competing for the upcoming Indian Air Force (IAF) MRCA contract, as well as for other segments.
According to the business news channel, General Moseley said that while it took over 50 years for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to conduct joint air exercises with the US Air Force, that interaction could get a further boost as the IAF is likely to participate in multilateral exercises in the United States within the next year or two. The exercise conducts realistic aerial war games in combat situations to train air force pilots from the US, NATO and allied countries. When it happens, it will be the first time the IAF would take part in a Red Flag exercise. (See: F-22 Raptors make their debut at USAF's Red Flag exercise)
The channel quoted the USAF Chief as saying, "We've not had an opportunity to understand each other's culture, to understand each other's rules, understand how to operate together since World War II. And so, any of these things in a multilateral sense, in a coalition sense, has benefits for all of us. And I look forward to more of them, whether it's in my country or whether it's in your country."
Acknowledging that the USAF has had successful joint exercises with the IAF in recent years, General Moseley however made it clear that inter-operability of hardware remained an issue.
CNBC-TV-18 quoted Moseley as saying, "To go beyond where we are now, into something much more interdependent requires a similar equipage of aircraft, whether it's cargo carrier aircraft, whether it's fighters or whether it's trainers, and so we're looking at that now as a potential set of opportunities - depending on what your air force and your government decide to buy."
General Moseley said that discussions with India with regard to purchase of US equipment were in progress.
Pitching for it…
Such an obvious pitch in public media by a serving officer of a foreign country may well raise a few eyebrows in defence circles here. It must be acknowledged, however, that induction of equipment from any country leads to greater integration and/or familiarization amongst defence services, particularly, in person-to-person level contacts. Such contacts come in very handy in case of emergencies, as well as in times of policy formulation.
Unlike their "natural allies" in Pakistan, US forces at best have a perfunctory relationship with their Indian counterparts. Given the history of the region in modern times, there would also not be much love lost between the two defence establishments. If the strategic initiatives of the US in Asia, or for that matter around the world, are to be of any consequence, then India will have to figure as a key cog in their plans. Induction of US equipment takes on an urgency that moves beyond commercial interest.
General Moseley's intervention in public media goes to show the various reasons, as well as the seriousness, with which competing countries are now eyeing the Indian defence market.