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NEW DELHI,Rajat Pandit(TNN): India and the US are all set to ink their new 10-year defence framework pact when President Barack Obama comes visiting as the chief guest of the Republic Day parade on the special invite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
US undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics Frank Kendall will be in town on January 22, just before Obama, to stitch up the loose ends. The new defence framework will be “more ambitious” than the earlier one — which was signed in June 2005 by then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and his counterpart Donald Rumsfeld — without impinging on India’s “strategic autonomy”, sources said.
The expansive framework will outline the series of steps to bolster the bilateral defence partnership, ranging from stepping up the scope and intensity of joint military exercises already taking place to advancing shared security interests for regional and global security. Collaboration in intelligence-sharing, maritime security and the drive against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will also figure on the agenda.
A significant addition will be the incorporation of the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) to augment the ones existing under the overall mechanism of the Defence Policy Group, which chalks out the path for future defence cooperation.
The US has been hard-selling a score of “transformative defence technologies” for co-development and co-production with India under the DTTI, which range from the next-generation of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters to long-endurance UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and 127mm warship guns, as reported by TOI earlier.
But the Modi government has already chosen an initial off-the-shelf purchase of Israeli Spike ATGMs, with 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles, for Rs 3,200 crore. Sources said India will initially choose only a couple of “simpler projects” from the ones being offered by the US to kick-off the DTTI process and then ascertain how they actually materialise on the ground.
Towards this, South Block is looking at technologies being offered by those American armament companies who already have Indian partners and will bring in FDI. “The technologies that come initially should also be open to being exported for long-term sustainability of such projects,” said a source.
As for exercises, the two sides are poised to upgrade their annual Malabar naval exercise. India has largely restricted Malabar to a bilateral one with the US after China protested against its 2007 edition in the Bay of Bengal since they were expanded to include the Australian, Japanese and Singaporean navies as well.
The 18th edition of Malabar held last year, however, included Japan for the third time after 2007 and 2009. Now, Australia is also showing keenness to join Malabar on a regular basis.