India, US today signed an agreement to jointly develop protective gear for soldiers against biological and chemical warfare and another on building battlefield generators, ahead of signing a new 10-year defence cooperation pact.
After talks between US defence secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parikkar, Carter is due to sign a new 10-year defence framework agreement that will include cooperation in maritime security.
The US defence secretary held talks with Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Mody, as the two countries, drawn closer against the rising weight of China, looked for ways to expand security ties.
Also, under Prime minister Narendra Mody's `Make in India' programme the United States has emerged as one of the top sources of weapons and defence technology for the Indian military, upstaging Russia in recent years.
While the two projects approved are modest in scale, India and the United States are exploring collaboration in higher-end technologies, Carter said.
"We have big ambitions, and jet engines, aircraft jet engines, aircraft carrier technology are big projects that we're working very hard on," he said.
Carter is due to sign a new 10-year defence cooperation pact with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parikkar later today that will include cooperation in maritime security, another official said.
The two countries conduct annual naval exercises in the Indian Ocean where China has made forays in recent years in a sign of its expanding reach.
The project on protective clothing for soldiers and developing the next generation power source for the battlefield will each have $1 million funding shared equally by the two sides, a US defence official said.
"We've negotiated texts, we've agreed to texts and they'll be signed into effect at the end of this month. We went from flash to bang, meaning from the joint statement in January to agreed to and signed texts in just under five months," the official said.
The other two projects under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative that Carter himself launched before his elevation as defence secretary relate to Raven mini-UAVs and surveillance modules for the C-130J military transport plane.
India is also eyeing US aircraft launch technology for a carrier it plans to build to replace an ageing British warship.
The US defence secretary also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides meeting external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
"Carter's trip to India is part of his focus on the US re-balance to Asia. Specifically, his trip to Vishakapatnam showcased his commitment to maritime security and the need for a regional security architecture that creates transparency and trust among regional partners," a statement by the US embassy had said in New Delhi yesterday.
Carter, who arrived in India yesterday, began his tour with a trip to strategically important Eastern Naval Command in Vishakapatnam whose theatre of operation includes the critical South China Sea region and the Strait of Malacca.