RAISINA HILLS

DEFENCE MINISTER PARRIKAR’S VISIT TO US

During his 4 day tour of the U.S., Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar acknowledged good chemistry and rapport with his counterpart, Dr Ashton Carter. Both of them being technocrats, both physicists, may be the reason Mr. Parrikar feels that they clicked. Dr Carter is a double major in physics and medieval history from Yale and recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University from where he received his doctorate in theoretical physics, while Mr. Parrikar is a graduate of Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.

Having identified 17 new areas for potential cooperation under Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), launched in 2012 to enhance bilateral strategic partnership, particularly in high technology, Mr. Parrikar said he and Dr. Carter had agreed to closely monitor its progress. Not divulging details of the new areas identified for cooperation, he said these covered radar systems and UAVs among others. He also stated that of the six items that were earlier considered under DTTI, two were found unsuitable but the other four were making good progress.

The Defence Minister’s tour included a visit to U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), the Pentagon, a visit with Secretary Carter to observe flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and interaction with Indian and U.S defence companies at the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC) that is spearheading wide range of bilateral cooperation.

“The confidence of American companies to go for a Make in India probably has improved a lot,” Mr Parrikar is reported to have said, adding that most of the offset problems that America Inc has consistently complained about had been resolved. “If you hear it now,” he said, “They will tell you that most of the problems have already been attended to and probably only one notification is yet to be issued, which should be coming in the next 10 days. Almost every difficulty they faced has been addressed… Over a period of the last six months, most of the problems of offsets have been addressed… Textron, for example, had a problem and we cleared it. Others had problems, we cleared it. So, I don’t think the problem will be too much in the next two months. The final notification is coming. After that, they do have some demands, but those are not obstructive in nature – those are slightly progressive in nature and we have to study them… We are examining them because they are more of an incentive nature… But all the difficult parts of it have been mostly resolved.” Mr. Parrikar is reported to have said.

Messrs Parrikar and Carter are reported to have expressed satisfaction over progress made by the two joint working groups – one on aircraft carrier technology cooperation and the other on jet engine technology. A joint statement said “Secretary Carter informed Minister Parrikar that in light of the strengthening relationship between the United States and India, the DoD has updated its policy on gas turbine engine technology transfer to India.”

According to USIBC president Mukesh Aghi, Mr. Parrikar’s visit demonstrated the growing trust between the two countries in the sensitive area of defence. But it was Aparna Pande, Director, Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at Hudson Institute, Washington who made a significant comment: “Minister Parrikar’s first trip was a success on form, symbol and generated enough hope on substance. We know the political leadership in both countries wants the relationship to move ahead. But for that to happen the bureaucracies need to come closer together. It also needs closer ties not only between governments but also between the private sectors of both countries. America’s closest ties are with those countries where the defence relationship is strongest and India would benefit by developing this aspect of the relationship as well.”

There is no doubt that the good vibes and agreements mentioned between the two leaders will fructify only with both countries’ bureaucracies cutting or at least considerably loosening the red tape.

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