New Delhi: Germany has offered to supply frontline hi-tech weapons systems to India, and also technology for the joint development of military systems. Visiting German defence minister, Franz Joseph Jung, made the offer during an hour-long meeting with his Indian counterpart AK Antony.
"Germany is ready to transfer technology as well as go in for joint development and production of weapons systems," Indian officials quoted Jung as saying.
The German defence minister has arrived in India accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes top officials of German defence related companies.
Jung's visit also comes in the backdrop of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arriving in Germany to take part in the G8 summit where he and German chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to meet on the sidelines.
The next level
With bilateral trade between India and Germany doubling in the last three years, from 5 billion euros to 10 billion euros, both countries are naturally seeking to upgrade ties to a higher level that would encompass strategic interests as well.
Jung's visit capitalizes on the spadework done early on this year in April, when the first Indo-German High Defence Committee meeting was held in New Delhi. The German delegation, led by German Federal state secretary for defence, Dr Peter Eickenboom, and the Indian defence secretary, Shekhar Dutt, saw the German side assuring India of a reliable transfer of technology arrangement in armaments and platforms.
At these talks, Dr Eickenboom also said that Germany shared India's security perspectives and recognized its growing importance in the maintenance of regional stability and peace. On behalf of his country, he assured India that Germany would be an open and reliable partner in all areas of defence cooperation.
A new framework
The first Indo-German High Defence Committee meeting was held after the framework for such a meeting was laid down by India and Germany last year, with both countries signing a defence and security agreement designed to change the contours of their bilateral relationship, from a 'buyer-seller' paradigm to one of partnership.
The pact aimed at establishing strategic dialogue at the level of defence secretaries through a group called the India-Germany High Defence Committee (HDC).
"HDC will meet once a year, alternately, in India and Germany. Under the HDC, the two countries will form three sub- groups to focus on strategic defence cooperation, defence technical cooperation and military to military cooperation, then defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee had said.
Mukherjee said that with the signing of the MoU, and the establishment of a High Defence Committee, a regular institutional mechanism had now been established, and the already existing high degree of economic and commercial cooperation with Berlin had now been extended to areas of defence and security.
Even as Russia, France and the UK, along with Israel have been strengthening their foothold in the Indian market, Germany, a technologically accomplished nation, with a host of armament companies that provide cutting edge technologies, has found itself left by the way side.
This, for German firms, is a travesty, for over the years they have been responsible for supplying some cutting edge or critical technologies to India. These have ranged from HDW submarines, and the technology for their manufacture, to engines for the Arjun MBT and space related technologies that have allowed ISRO's rockets and DRDO's missiles to home in on their targets.
Now, German shipbuilder HDW would be interested in tendering for India's second submarine line, after French firms walked off with an initial contract for the supply of six Scorpene submarines to the Indian Navy. The tenders for the second line of submarines are likely to be issued by New Delhi in the latter half of the year. They would be competing with a hot contender, the Russian Amur-class.
The Germans would also be keen to bid for an Indian Army tender for 155mm tracked and wheeled .52 calibre Howitzers. The Indian Army only recently floated the request for proposals for buying about 500 such Howitzers.
The Germans have tasted recent success with European giant EADS' subsidiary Eurocopter now on the verge of bagging a $700 million contract for the supply of 197 light helicopters to the Indian Army. Germany is one of the major shareholders in the European consortium.
At a strategic level, Berlin has already expressed its interest in the supply of civilian nuclear reactors to India once the nuclear suppliers group changes its guidelines.