May 21, 2012

India heads towards inking more arms deals with US as Panetta comes calling next month

TNN | May 19, 2012, 03.22AM IST


NEW DELHI: India is ready to seal more arms deals and further boost defence cooperation with the US but remains unwilling to ink the foundational military pacts being pushed by Washington for years.

This, in essence, is the message US defence secretary Leon Panetta will get when he comes visiting here next month. Panetta, who will hold talks with PM Manmohan Singh, defence minister A K Antony and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon among others, is slated to be in New Delhi on June 6. "China,Pakistan and Afghanistan will also figure in the discussions,'' said an official.

India has made it clear in the past that it's not ready to ink the Logistics Support Agreement(LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) with the US. "The position, more or less, has not changed,'' the official said.

There is, however, movement forward in two major defence deals. One, the defence ministry recently cleared the acquisition of 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers from the US in a directgovernment-to-government deal worth $647 million under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

Two, Boeing is now on course to bag the $1.4 billion contract to supply 22 missile-armed helicopter gunships to the IAF after its AH-64D Apache Longbow outperformed Mil MoscowHelicopter Plant's Mi-28N 'Night Hunter' in the field trials, as reported by TOI earlier.

Despite having lost out in the almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to supply 126 fighters to IAF, the US has already notched up sales worth over $8 billion over the last decade.

These include big-ticket ones like $4.1 billion for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft, $2.1 billion for eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and $962 million for six C-130J 'Super Hercules' planes. Negotiations are now being finalized for acquiring six more C-130J as well as four more P-8I aircraft

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