As the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the US on a state visit, many positive outomes can be expected in the context of bilateral defence cooperation.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his US counterpart Joe Biden
In what can be described as one of the most crucial moments in the India-United States bilateral relations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on his first state visit to the United States. The visit holds much prominence as it would be the first ever state visit by Prime Minister Modi’s administration upon the invitation of the United States’ President Joe Biden. A state visit, unlike the previous visits of Prime Minister Modi, would be marked by more pomp and rigour as he would be welcomed with a traditional state ceremony followed by a 21 gun salute on the arrival at the White House. The state visits are considered a special honour as they have a high symbolic and ceremonial status which can be considered an official recognition of friendly bilateral relations between two states.
In the context of this state visit , one can expect a steering progress into the negotiations of these critical defence policy agreements. Another most important outcome that is likely to come out of this dialogue is the consent of the US administration to joint production of the GE F 414 engines which will be used to power India’s Tejas Mk2, the indigenous light weight aircraft of the Indian air force. Apart from this, the long pending deal regarding the procurement of the 30 MQ 9B Predator drones will also be tabled on the agenda.
A lot more could be expected from this bilateral exchange as both the countries gear up for taking the ties deeper. The Indian diaspora in the United States very much awaits the arrival of Prime Minister Modi who is scheduled to land in the country by June 22, 2023. As has been declared by the White House Press Secretary Kerine Jean-Pierre, the visit will strengthen the shared goals regarding a free and open Indo-Pacific along with building bilateral cooperation in various dimensions of cultural, defence, education and people to people ties.
It is also significant here to pay attention towards the strategic dimensions of the India-US partnerships, particularly cooperation in defence industry, space and clean energy technology. As has been reiterated by the official statement of the White House, the strategic domain of cooperation will be on the table as both sides aim to build their defence capacities even further.
In the context of defence ties, a couple of developments need to be taken into consideration in order to understand the importance that this state visit would hold for both these countries. It was only last month that the 17th round of the India-US Defence Policy Group was held. The bilateral dialogue, chaired by Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl along with Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane of the Indian Ministry of Defence deliberated on a plethora of defence sector related issues ranging from industrial cooperation, information sharing, maritime security and technological collaboration in order to make the bilateral defence ties more comprehensive.
Adding to this momentum, was the crucial visit of US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin who met with India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh to reaffirm the US support for building robust military cooperation in the face of common threats in the region. The “roadmap of defence industrial cooperation” is perhaps the most prominent outcome of this strategic dialogue. Both the sides enter into agreement to deepen the industrial cooperation in the defence sector and amp up India’s ambitions to increase its defence manufacturing capacity.
This roadmap for defence industrial cooperation seeks to provide India with the access to the most critical technological advances in defence structures in order to boost up the process of defence sector modernisation. The two sides have also launched negotiations regarding two very crucial agreements- The security of the defence supply relations as well as the reciprocal defence procurement agreement. Both these agreements together will diversify the defence industry cooperation between India and the US.
Having looked at all the potential areas to be discussed in the state visit, it is very much evident that a rise in the India-US defence trade relations can be expected in the near future. It has already been estimated that the defence acquisition of India from the US is likely to cross $ 25 billion. As the economic conditions of the United States are ebbing at this point in time, it would seek to benefit a lot by entering into increased defence trade with the largest defence equipment importer in the world, India.
The China factor is very crucial to understand in order to dig deeper into the meaning of the heightened India-US partnership in the context of the Indo-Pacific. It was not long ago that the United States formally declared an Indo-pacific strategy that dealt with the goal of an open, free, stable and secure region, a goal that aligns perfectly with those of the other important players in the region like India, Japan and Australia. This also points to the importance accorded to the security alliance between these countries, the QUAD.
The QUAD displays the importance of multilateral engagements in dealing with the containment of common threats and barriers that exist in order to make the Indo-Pacific a secure geopolitical region. In this context, it becomes all the more important for the individual states in the alliance to create avenues for increasing regional and multilateral security. India has taken proactive steps in this regard. The deepening ties with Australia, entering into crucial agreements regarding technology, defence and connectivity with Japan and creating a robust defence supply chain infrastructure with the US as would be achieved by this landmark visit, are all significant steps forward towards the realisation of regional security while also keeping the threat of increasing Chinese influence at bay.