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'US in active talks with India to look at producing military systems'

WASHINGTON (PTI): The United States is in active talks with the Indian government to look at producing military systems in areas related to ISR and ground-based conventional warfare, a senior Pentagon official has said.

Efforts are also on to establish a reciprocal defence procurement agreement with India, Siddharth Iyer, Director for South Asia Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defence said in Washington on Tuesday at an event organised by the prestigious Hudson Institute.

"We are in active talks with the Indian government to look at producing military systems in areas related to ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), and then of course ground-based conventional warfare. And we'll have more to say on that as they become ripe," he said.

Indian-American Iyer said the talks between India and the US to finalise the security of supply arrangement, which would streamline the ability of defence firms to procure their requirements, is making good progress.

"We are also moving at an aggressive clip to establish a reciprocal defence procurement agreement, which would allow and create the conditions for US and Indian defence industries to increase and streamline market access," he said.

This relationship is one of the top priorities for the Pentagon, Iyer said.

"Our belief is that getting the US-India relationship right is not just necessary, it's essential to achieving our strategy in the Indo-Pacific. There's a broad and deep commitment to making that happen," he said.

"I think one of the ways in which we think about the roadmap is really a manifestation of (Defence) Secretary (Loyd) Austin's commitment to accelerating India's military modernisation, and for him, putting the department on the hook to find targeted opportunities to propose to advance India's indigenous defence production capabilities," he said.

The India-US defence roadmap, Iyer said, among other things, identifies the priority military areas where their industries should focus their collaborative efforts.

It identifies some concrete mechanisms by which they can work together to integrate the supply chains. And then ultimately, it also establishes the oversight mechanism to ensure that bureaucratic logjams and regulatory barriers don't impede progress.

"On some of the concrete initiatives, I think the GE engine deal has received some of the most attention in the press," Iyer said.

"I think it is a testament to the significance of the deal. Certainly, it's an arrangement between private companies but the governments had to work extremely closely with each other, with industry and we had to take a really holistic view about how we think about technology security and what it means to advance our strategic interest and balance tech security and US national security requirements to make this come about," he said.

The deal provides India access to jet engine technology that is some of the most sensitive military technology available to the US and what many consider to be a crown jewel, he said.

"In the months ahead, I expect we are going to make progress on a number of different fronts," Iyer said.

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