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India, US push defence deals amid ‘global challenges’

Team Parvasi – Inside

India, US push defence deals amid ‘global challenges’
NEW DELHI: India and the United States announced progress on key defence deals and said they would expand their growing partnership in the face of geopolitical challenges as their top diplomats and senior ministers met on Friday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi as part of their annual “2+2 Dialogue”, focused on the Indo-Pacific region.

Delhi is part of the Quad alliance alongside the United States, Australia and Japan, a grouping that positions itself as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Washington hopes a tighter defence relationship will help wean India off Russia, New Delhi’s primary military supplier.

New Delhi keen to buy 31 armed drones, as US govt clearance awaited

“Our intention is to encourage more collaboration to produce world-class defence equipment to meet Indian defence needs and contribute to greater global security,” Donald Lu, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia, said ahead of the trip.

Indian Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane said that deal between the aerospace unit of General Electric and India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics was on track. “We are finalising the commercial arrangements and the necessary legal requirements are being put in place,” he told reporters after the talks.

A more than $3 billion deal for India to buy 31 armed drones made by General Atomics is also being processed and India is waiting for the company to get US government clearances for the next steps, Mr Aramane said.

Washington had offered several infantry combat vehicle systems and New Delhi has expressed interest, he added without giving details.

Indian media reports have said the Pentagon has offered the Stryker family of eight-wheeled armoured fighting vehicles produced by General Dynamic Land Systems and that New Delhi is interested in jointly manufacturing them in India.

Before the talks, Defence Secretary Austin said it was more important than ever that the world’s two largest democracies exchange views and find common goals “in the face of urgent global challenges”.

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“We’re integrating our industrial bases, strengthening our inter-operability and sharing cutting-edge technology,” he said.

India-US relations have steadily grown stronger on several fronts in the last two decades but New Delhi has also carefully preserved long-standing relations with Russia, much to the frustration of the West amid the war in Ukraine.

‘Open, secure Indo-Pacific’

India has a long-running border dispute with northern neighbour China, with a deadly Himalayan clash in 2020 sending diplomatic relations into a deep freeze. Their 3,500-km shared frontier remains a long-running source of tension.

“We will be interested to hear how India’s discussions with China are going related to border issues,” Lu said before the talks began. “One of the many discussion points will be our cooperation with India to keep the Indo-Pacific free, open, prosperous, and secure,” he added.

President Joe Biden’s administration has prioritised relations with Delhi, seeing a like-minded partner faced with the rise of China, but Blinken also raised the bitter feud between India and another close US partner — Canada.

Nijjar’s killing

Relations between the two have plunged since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in September publicly linked Indian intelligence to the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, allegations Delhi has called “absurd”.

Nijjar, who advocated for a separate Sikh state carved out of India, was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.

“On India-Canada, these are two of our closest friends and partners and, of course, we want to see them resolving any differences or disputes that they have,” Blinken said.

For that, it would entail “Canada moving its investigation forward, and India working with Canada on it,” Secretary Blinken said, before he wrapped up a marathon diplomatic push in India after a whirlwind Middle East trip and G7 talks.

The top US diplomat for South and Central Asia earlier said: “We have publicly and privately urged the Indian government to cooperate with Canada on the investigation into the allegations. We are hopeful that Canada’s investigation will proceed, and the perpetrators will be brought to justice.”

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