US authorises $2.6-bn sale of 24 MH-60R choppers to India

The US Department of State has approved the sale of 24 MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopters, valued at $2.6 billion, to India under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. 

The principal contractor for the deal will be Lockheed Martin, as per a statement released on Tuesday by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the body that administers the FMS programme. 
The proposed sale will provide India the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions, says the DSCA.
The DSCA submitted its certification notifying the US Congress of the possible sale, kicking off a 30-day notification period. Congress is not required to approve or disapprove the potential sale. Even if the Congress fails to take any action in the 30-day period, the sale will move forward.
“The proposed sale will provide India the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions along with the ability to perform secondary missions, including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay. India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence,” the DSCA said.
Defence exporters in the US have to inform the Congress of any sale of major defence equipment (MDE) worth $14 million and above, defence articles and services of $50 million and above and design and construction services of $200 million and above in the case most non-NATO countries. 
Besides, the statement noted that India typically requires offsets that will be defined between India and the contractor.
Also, the Indian government would request for personnel training and training equipment, engineering contract, logistics and technical support services, the statement said.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region,” the DSCA said.
India was designated a Major Defence Partner (MDP) of the US in 2016 by the Obama administration, in a move to allow the country access US military technology at a level on par with those of the US’s closest allies. 
Accordingly, India was given Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status by the US in August last year, facilitating the transfer of technology in the defence and space sectors. India is the third Asian country after South Korea and Japan, and 37th country globally, to acquire the status. 
India and the United States, two of the world’s largest democracies are attracted to each other by overlapping concerns over a rising China and Islamist extremism.
For the US which has been alarmed by China's growing interest in the Indian Ocean, India is "a major defensive partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region."
China has made use of a growing number of naval bases in the Indian Ocean, most notably the Gwadar port it is developing in India's historic rival Pakistan, to challenge India’s influence.
India has responded with a doctrine to ensure freedom of movement throughout the Indian Ocean, stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca.
It is against this background that India signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) agreement with the US, providing a legal basis for the US to transfer secure communication equipment to India, increasing military equipment interoperability and real time data sharing.
The sale comes on the heels of a few weeks of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan that began with an attack on an Indian security convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, on 14 February.