Hagel moots US-India joint development of defence technology

09 August 2014

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel is reported to have offered India seven new defence technologies for joint development and over a dozen proposals that would involve transfer technology and production expertise to India in a bid to improve defence ties between the two countries.

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel and Arup RahaIn his meetings with his defence officials in India, Hagel also alluded to ''big data'' and a number of cyber security options to India.

The Pentagon chief said the new initiative also included a plan for the US and India to co-produce and co-develop the next upgrade of the Javelin anti-tank missile, which would be cheaper, lighter and more capable.

In a speech on Saturday on bilateral defence relations, Hagel said US and India must broaden the scope of their military partnership by jointly developing and producing arms.

Addressing the Observer Research Foundation conference in New Delhi, he also said the US and India should increase the "scale and complexity" of their military exercises.

India and the US must seize opportunities to collaborate more on defence development and not let government red tape and other problems stymie progress of collaboration between the two nations, Hagel said.

Hagel's mission was to revive two-year-old defence trade and technology initiative (DTTI). ''The DTTI is the centrepiece of our defence relationship,'' said Hagel at the event.

The US is hoping to partner India in modernising its military, but Indian side is more interested in technology and co-development opportunities than simply buying arms from the US.

Hagel, however, has secured a few concrete agreements, even as he acknowledged that the collaboration between the two countries must be ''results oriented'' and should do more to ''transform our nations' defence cooperation from simply buying and selling to co-production, co-development, and freer exchange of technology.''

''For both our nations, the challenge is to seize the opportunities before us,'' Hagel said in remarks in a prepared speech at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. ''Bureaucratic red tape - within either of our governments - must not bound the limits of our partnership and initiatives.''

The technology development initiative is part of a broader US effort to improve its relationship with India, which is seen as a key ally in Asia, in part as a possible countermeasure to China.

In his speech, however, Hagel acknowledged that India need not choose between US and China even as US and India continue to work together on regional issues and avoid ''traps of rivalry.''

India, he said, ''need not choose between closer partnership with America and improved ties with China.'' But, at same time, he urged India to increase its security cooperation with Japan and the US so the three nations can increase their defence cooperation.

Hagel, meanwhile, cut short his engagements in India as a meeting with senior US leaders and military commanders about the airstrikes and humanitarian supply drops in Iraq forced him to back out of some official engagements.

Hagel will now leave for Australia in a round-the-world trip.

Seven new defence technologies for joint development were offered by Pentagon chief, Chuck Hagel, in his meetings with his Indian counterparts, say Indian and US sources. Hagel alluded to one of them, big data, in a speech on Saturday on bilateral defence relations and spoke of ''over a dozen concrete proposals'' being on the table. Sources say the US has also offered a number of cyber security options to India.

Hagel's mission was to revive Indo-US defence relations, especially the moribund two-year-old defence trade and technology initiative (DTTI). ''The DTTI is the centrepiece of our defence relationship,'' said Hagel at the event organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

Under the DTTI, the US had asked India to join in co-producing and co-developing a series of cutting edge weapons and technologies. Though the US offered 10 weapons technologies, the programme failed to take off under the last government.

Read: US, India must improve defence cooperation, says Chuck Hagel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to put the private sector in the front seat of India's defence sector and reduce the country's dependence on imported arms. With the private sector insisting on the need for foreign technology, the US's joint weapons development offers are seen as a potential match for both sides.

Hagel held a roundtable with India Inc on Saturday evening. In contrast, the UPA government deliberately kept the Indian private sector at a distance from the DTTI, say industry sources.

Implementation remains a concern, say sources. Hagel said the relationship had to be ''results oriented''. He warned against ''red tape'' on both sides getting in the way of building the military industrial cooperation. He also spoke of the need for ''greater clarity'' on the offsets needed under the new 49% FDI defence policy.

The US today said India does not need to choose between its ties with Washington and China and should avoid seeing Beijing as a rival.

Addressing a gathering here, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that India and America should expand their defence ties and include Japan in their security cooperation partnership.

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