India and the United States have concluded a roadmap for defence industry cooperation for the next few years, the Indian government says – a move expected to bolster New Delhi’s defence manufacturing ambitions.
Washington is working to deepen ties with the world’s largest arms importer and sees deeper military-to-military and technology ties with the South Asian country as a key counterweight to China’s dominance in the region.
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The roadmap was finalised at a meeting between visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Monday.
The agreement comes weeks before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Washington on June 22 for an official state visit and holds talks with President Joe Biden.
Talks between Singh and Austin had a “particular focus on identifying ways to strengthen industrial cooperation”, a statement by the Indian defence ministry said.
“Both sides will identify opportunities for co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defence start-up ecosystems of the two countries,” it said.
“Towards these objectives, they concluded a roadmap for US-India Defence Industrial Cooperation which shall guide the policy direction for the next few years.”
India depends on Russia for nearly half its military supplies but has also increasingly diversified its sources to buy from the US, France and Israel among other nations.
New Delhi also wants global defence manufacturers to partner with Indian companies and produce arms and military equipment in India for local consumption as well as exports.
India is looking to buy 18 high-altitude, long-endurance armed drones from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc for an estimated $1.5bn to $2bn, defence analyst Rahul Bedi said. The aircraft would likely be deployed along its restive borders with China and Pakistan and in the strategic Indian Ocean region, Bedi added.
Indian media reports said joint production and manufacture of combat aircraft engines, infantry combat vehicles, howitzers and their precision ordnance were discussed last month in Washington at a meeting of the US-India Defence Policy Group.
US defence trade with India has risen from near zero in 2008 to more than $20bn in 2020. Indian purchases from the US have included long-range maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, missiles and drones.