Clinton pitches for more military sales to India

July 19th, 2011 - 9:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) With their strategic proximity growing, the US Tuesday pitched for more military sales to India, a call soon after Washington decided to cut $800 million arms aid to Pakistan.

“On the issue of defence technologies, the US expects to continue developing and selling the world’s most competitive products,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a three-day visit to India, said here.

“We view these sales as important on their own terms but also as a means to facilitate the work the Indian and American militaries can do together, whether patrolling the seas or providing relief to the victims of natural disasters,” she said.

Clinton was addressing a press conference with her counterpart S.M. Krishna after the two held their second strategic dialogue on the second day of her visit.

The joint statement issued after the talks also spoke of US military sales and sharing of defence technologies with India.

“India’s defence orders from US companies have reached a cumulative value of over $8 billion in the last decade. These sales reflect strengthened cooperation.

“Both sides affirmed their desire to strengthen cooperation through technology transfer, and joint research, development and production of defence items,” it said.

India has in the last decade bought eight P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for $2.1 billion and is expected to order four more planes for its navy, six C-130J transporters for $1.2 billion, and 10 C-17 heavy lift cargo planes for $4.1 billion along with their weapon suites.

This would be apart from buying an old landing pontoon dock warship for amphibious operations and naming it INS Jalashwa — and 140 M777 artillery guns.

US firms are also in competition for India’s requirement for 22 attack helicopters, 15 heavy lift cargo helicopters.

However, the sticking point in the military sales is the restriction on supply of high-end systems, as India is yet to sign agreements such as the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

India is also not satisfied with the progress made by the US in lifting sanctions on its defence and space research organisations by removing them from the restricting entity list, a move announced by US President Barack Obama during his November visit last year.

However, Clinton said the two sides had “made progress” on matters of security cooperation during this round of strategic dialogue, which was initiated last year.

“But we can do more to strengthen the security of our nations and this region as a whole,” she said.

The Secretary noted that maritime security was also “a major concern, as we seek to protect sea lanes, combat piracy, and defend freedom of navigation”.

She applauded India’s leadership on fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean region, including its decision last week to chair the 2012 plenary of the piracy contact group off Somalia coast.

The two nations also agreed to continue consultations on maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean region in existing forums.

They also agreed to exchange views on promoting regional security architecture that enhances maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.

India and the US welcomed the progress in bilateral defence cooperation. Their defence policy group, which met in March, will meet in early 2012.

“They noted the progress in defence bilateral exchanges, exercises, capacity building, information sharing, including in the areas of counter-narcotics, counter piracy, maritime safety, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

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