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US keen for defence co-production, co-development with India

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WASHINGTON (PTI): With India being one of the top priorities of the Obama Administration, the US is keen to explore co-production and co-development opportunities in defence with the rising Asian power and expand maritime security cooperation to further strengthen the strategic ties.

"We think there is a strong potential (in Indo-US defence ties). We want to translate that strong potential into action and reality. And that is desired on both sides," Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar told PTI on the eve of his visit to New Delhi.

"The way you do that is coming to a closer understanding of the strategic picture. We see a natural convergence between India and the United States," he said.

Leading a high-powered inter-agency delegation, including officials from the State Department, Pentagon and the US Pacific Command, Talwar will travel to India from Monday to co-chair a political-military dialogue with senior officials from External Affairs and Defence ministries.

"We would be discussing, I hope, several topics of regional security in the Indo-Pacific region and we also want to get into discussion of defense trade as well," he said.

"What you have seen and what you will continue to see is that India is very high up on the agenda. We see a natural convergence between India and the US. We think it is really incumbent on us to try to explore this relationship and try to take as far as we possibly can because we see benefits not only for us, we see them also globally," he said.

"We think a strong India-US relationship would be good for peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific but also globally," he said in response to a question.

The talks will focus on regional and maritime security, defence trade, and new areas for strategic cooperation.

Referring to the significant increase in strategic and defence ties, he said defence trade relationship has now gone from virtually zero to USD 10 billion in less than a decade.

"It has grown significantly. We think defence cooperation can go much further and that's the signal we received from India. They would like to take it further and certainly we would like to as well," he said.

During his visit, Talwar will seek opportunities to further expand India-US security cooperation, including support for the Department of Defense's US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative.

"We want to talk about co-production and co-development opportunities. We have been working through the defence trade and technology initiatives on a number of potential projects where one could get into a very sophisticated kind of collaboration and co-operation," he added.

US aviation giant Boeing last week delivered the sixth P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to India, which is part of multi-billion dollar contract of eight aircraft.

President Barack Obama's visit in January, Talwar said, reflects the high priority that his administration has placed on deepening and strengthening the partnership with India.

In India, Talwar will hold meetings with government officials in New Delhi, visit US-Indian joint ventures in the defence sector in Hyderabad, deliver remarks at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, and hold a roundtable discussion with the US-India Business Council.

"We want to translate that, and try to narrow down into specific areas where we can have co-operation. Where we had discussions in the past and look forward to continuing them on the defence side in particular, are issues of co-production and co-development, as well as just understanding and explaining to India from our perspective and getting a better understanding of their perspective how defence procurement, defence trade and defence licensing systems work on both sides so that we can deepen our cooperation," Talwar said.

He will be accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kenneth Handelman, who is in-charge of the directorate of defence trade control.

"We hope that would be beneficial conversation. Of course part of the goal of defence trade and technology initiative was to address what you were talking about (relaxing export control norms for India), to be able to put on the table certain projects which we can pursue that would involve very sophisticated areas," Talwar said.

"That conversation we would like to take to deeper level.

"We think more can be done there. And so this whole area of technology transfer should be one that we talk about and the kinds of systems that we do to explain our procedures and our policies in this area I think would be a useful exercise.

This is the kind of conversation that we want to deepen with India," he added.

"I would say in general that a very high percentage of license applications are approved for India. There is a very low denial rate. Part of the conversation that we want to have with them is to there are certain procedures we have to go through, but again we are trying to deepen the strategic partnership. So it is no accident that I am bringing somebody from the licensing office," he noted.

The US, he said, would like to develop a common operating picture, common understanding of the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific and from there then they can go into other areas of potential collaboration and cooperation.

"Maritime security for example is a significant area. The Indian Ocean region is vast. We have a global effort actually to try to enhance maritime domain awareness, maritime security. India clearly and the United States share a desire for freedom of navigation, which is essential for free flow of commerce, free flow of goods. One particular example that I can give you one area where we share our interest and work together is counter piracy," he said.

"India has a vested stake in the security and stability of the region. We think there is a potential for strategic cooperation there, which can cover many realms. It can go from defence trade to all the way through ways we can work together to promote freedom of navigation," he said.

"What I am doing, what others have been doing, is all related to that top-level decision to really try to deepen the partnership with India," Talwar added.

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US  India  Defence  Stratety  Boeing  P-8I  
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