As India and the US are working on greater collaboration between defence manufacturing sectors, the conclusion of the industrial security annex or ISA will provide the necessary framework for pursuing co-development and co-production, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday.
India and the US have a global strategic partnership and the two are working together to further expand and deepen this important partnership, Singh told reporters here, adding that an integral component of the strategic partnership is strong defence.
While 2+2 mechanism has brought about greater synergy in diplomatic and security policies, Rajnath Singh said noting that the two countries have made a conscious decision to have greater high-level and deeper relationships.
The tri-service exercise of November 2019, that is the Exercise Tiger Triumph, is one such example, Rajnath Singh said addressing the news conference after the conclusion of the 2+2 dialogue.
In the last few years, India and the US have signed several foundational defence agreements, including the COMCASA, and LEMOA.
“In the last few years, we have made a conscious decision to diversify and indigenise our arms acquisitions. This increased defence trade with the US is one important aspect of this,” Rajnath Singh told reporters in response to a question.
“We are also working to encourage greater collaboration between defence manufacturing sectors in India in the US. The conclusion of the industrial security annex with the US will provide the necessary framework for pursuing the co-development and co-production linkages in the defence manufacturing centre,” Rajnath Singh said.
“We hope that this will enable a smooth transfer of classified technology and information,” he added.
Rajnath Singh said these developments would add value to other key initiatives of the government such as the Make in India and the two defence manufacturing corridors in India.
Esper said the US should look at every opportunity to advance its relationship with India.
Whether it requires a policy change, a regulatory change, or a change to law, “I think those are all the things that we should explore”, he said.
“And Minister Singh and I had a discussion along a couple of these lines earlier today in our bilateral meeting,” Esper said.
Noting that the India-US defence trade has now increased to USD 18 billion, he said this shows the depth and the breadth of this relationship.
“This is important. It’s not just about equipment, hardware, software. What it does is it gets to the improved interoperability between our two countries, our two militaries, a better understanding, a way to work and fight better together if called upon to do so,” he said.
Rajnath Singh said India has invited US companies to further invest in India under the Make in India programme.
“We have agreed to move forward in our engagement in the area of defence innovation. The 2+2 meeting today is a cornerstone in strengthening the strategic defence engagement between India and the US and will enable us to work alongside in a number of areas of mutual interest,” he said. Asserting that the extensive engagement has yielded important results, he said the two countries have been able to achieve important milestones that were set during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue last year.
He said some of these included setting up a hotline between him and the US Secretary of Defense, carrying out the first tri-service exercise and enabling most of US-origin platforms with secure communication capability and conducting defence policy group dialogue after a prolonged gap of almost four years, he said.
“On the defense industry side, I sped up my priorities to take this partnership beyond the acquisition of platforms and equipment to significant transfer of defense technology and increase investment by US defence companies in India under the Make in India programme,” he said.
“We have also identified priority programmes, which can be selected and executed. We have also identified a standard operating procedure for this process,” he noted.
Esper said the new annual exercise called Tiger Triumph will enhance tri-service coordination and allow them to exchange knowledge and expertise. “Our forces successfully completed the first exercise under this initiative last month and we look forward to the next one in 2020. Meanwhile, our defense trade and technology ties continue to grow,” he said.
He said the industrial security annex will facilitate collaboration between defence industries of both countries by supporting the “secure transfer of key information and technology”.
“We also finalised three agreements under the defense technology and trade initiative which will enhance our ability to co-produce and co-develop critical technologies,” Esper said.