The United States and India agreed on Monday, June 5, on a roadmap for military-industrial cooperation, as New Delhi seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian armaments and amid tensions with Beijing.
We have established an ambitious new roadmap for industrial cooperation in the field of defence, which will accelerate priority co-development and co-production projects," said Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, at the end of his visit to the Indian capital as part of a tour of Asia.
New Delhi and Moscow have been allies for decades, with Russia by far India's largest arms supplier. Today, India, which has never condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, is seeking to end this military dependence, both by expanding its sources of arms imports and by increasing its domestic production.
Western countries, including the United States and France, are negotiating multibillion-dollar deals, and diplomats say India attaches great importance to technology transfer as part of any deal. The one with Washington will accelerate technological cooperation and co-production, especially in air combat and land mobility systems, the "underwater domain" and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, according to the US Department of Defense.
The move "aims to change the paradigm of cooperation between the US and Indian defence sectors," he added, and "could enable India to access cutting-edge technologies and support India's defence modernization plans." India's defence ministry said the talks were "particularly focused on identifying ways to strengthen industrial cooperation" with Washington, including "co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems."
Delicate diplomatic posture
India's increased security cooperation with Western countries and its long-standing defence ties with Russia, from which it imports oil, have placed New Delhi in a delicate diplomatic position. India is seeking to develop closer ties with in particular the United States, Japan and Australia, members of the Quad, which themselves are courting it against China. Washington and Beijing compete fiercely on diplomatic, military, technological and economic fronts, while relations between China and India are marked by territorial and trade tensions.
Lloyd Austin, speaking to reporters after meeting his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh, said the strengthening of partnerships with New Delhi was taking place against a backdrop of "intimidation" and "coercion" by China, against the backdrop of Russia's "aggression against Ukraine." Lloyd Austin's visit to India comes ahead of a trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June.