Envoy pitches for US planes in $10.4-bn deal

March 9th, 2011 - 3:38 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) US ambassador Timothy J. Roemer Wednesday urged India to pick one of the two American planes in a $10.4-billion deal to buy 126 combat aircraft, saying it will be an important indicator of where the bilateral strategic relationship was heading.

Addressing a conference on America and Asia organised by the Jawaharlal Nehru University here, Roemer said the Indian decision was the next logical step in taking forward the India-US relationship that he added was critical for world peace.

“Hopefully when India evaluates the six competitors for MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft), it decides one of the two American platforms… F-16s Super Viper (Lockheed Martin) and F/A-18 (Boeing) Super Hornet.

“This becomes the very logical next step in the relationship. This will be a very important indicator of where this relationship goes in the 21st century,” he said.

Apart from the US planes, Russian MiG-35 (United Aircraft Corp), French Rafale (Dassault), European consortium’s Eurofighter Typhoon (EADS-Cassidian) and Swedish Gripen (Saab) are in the fray for the Indian Air Force (IAF) deal.

Asked if bilateral relations would be hit if American companies were not picked, Roemer reminded of the promises US President Barack Obama made in November 2010 — on a reformed UN Security Council.

“I am an optimist… an optimist about US-India strategic partnership. I am an optimist about what President Obama announced when he was here… the UN membership for India, (DRDO and ISRO) coming off the Entity List, historical cooperation with India in regional and multilateral fora.

“Across the board, America is elevating, raising India to a global partner,” he said.

“MMRCA seems to be a logical next step in building strategic partnership on the defence side. But the people of India will decide that, the government will decide that.

“We hope (India will) look at US reliability as a strong strategic partner. We hope India will look at the technology… some of the best radars, avionics and targeting equipment in the world… some of the sophisticated technology anywhere,” he said.

Referring to the delivery of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J in February, the ambassador expressed the hope that the “on-time, on-budget” delivery of the transport aircraft for Indian Special Forces will be kept in mind when the MMRCA deal was finalised.

“We just delivered C-130J which were actually not only on time, but under budget.. slightly under budget. In the defence world today, that’s a very important factor for tight budgets,” he added.

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