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India, US ink new defence framework accord

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter signing the 2015 framework for the India-US defence relationship, in New Delhi on Wednesday. A PIB photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): India and the US on Wednesday night signed a new strategically important 10-year defence framework pact envisaging joint development and manufacture of defence equipment and technology including jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction.

Both sides also finalised two project agreements for hi-tech mobile power source and next generation protective suits for chemical and biological warfare.

The framework agreement, which was decided during the visit of US President Barack Obama to India in January this year and focuses on issues ranging from maritime security and joint training, was inked by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.

"Raksha Mantri and Secretary Carter signed the 2015 Framework for the India-US Defence Relationship, which builds upon the previous framework and successes to guide the bilateral defence and strategic partnership for the next ten years," an official statement by the Defence Ministry said.

The new Framework agreement provides avenues for high level strategic discussions, continued exchanges between armed forces of both countries, and strengthening of defence capabilities, it said.

In addition, Parrikar and Carter agreed to expedite discussions to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction, and other areas.

The statement added that Framework also recognises the transformative nature of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).

"Both India and the United States have finalised two project agreements for joint development of Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources and the Next Generation Protective Ensembles," it said.

The two also agreed to pursue co-development and co-production projects that will offer tangible opportunities for American defence industries to build partnership with the Indian industries, including in manufacturing under 'Make in India', the statement said.

Carter also met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and discussed ways to enhance strategic and defence interest.

Carter's visit comes as US re-balances itself to the Asia Pacific. Pentagon officials had in March termed China's ongoing territorial dispute with countries like Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam over the South China Sea as "provocative".

Parrikar and Carter discussed the bilateral defence relationship, and the broader India-US Strategic Partnership, and reaffirmed their commitment to expand and deepen the bilateral defence ties, the statement said.

The two leaders also reviewed the existing and emerging regional security dynamics.

They agreed to continue their efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as maritime security and knowledge partnership in the field of defence.

Carter thanked Parrikar for the help extended in the search for the US helicopter which went missing during the relief operations in Nepal.

He invited Parrikar to visit US for the next meeting which was accepted in principle.

During Obama's visit, both countries had identified four "pathfinder projects" as well as decided to explore development of aircraft carrier technologies and jet engines.

The pathfinder products are the Raven mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), "roll-on, roll-off" mission modules for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, mobile electric hybrid power sources, and chemical-biological warfare protection suite for soldiers.

DTTI is an important element of the Defence Agreement.

The first framework agreement, which expires this year, was signed in the US in 2005 by the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his then US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld.

Critics have said that the pathfinder projects are very small in comparison to what was expected. However, US officials have said that these are projects which will lead to bigger ones if they turn out to be successful.

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