News Analysis

India, US not on same page on tech

NEW DELHI: India and the US, at the latest meeting on defence-related matters, promised to continue engagement but disagreed on issues of transfer of technology and stopped short of indulging in public embrace.

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15

India and the US, at the latest meeting on defence-related matters, promised to continue engagement but disagreed on issues of transfer of technology and stopped short of indulging in public embrace.

For New Delhi, the next week starts with a diplomatic tango with Russia, which has so far not reacted publicly, and to smoothen the wrinkles with its neighbour China, which has been guarded in its initial response.

Commencing on April 18, key members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s team will be in Moscow and Beijing. Parrikar and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval are separately heading to Beijing and will possibly explain there that the LEMOA is not a military pact. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be at the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral in Moscow on Monday.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on April 12 announced an in-principle decision to ink the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) for which a draft is being prepared.

Even as Carter was explaining to a crowd of mediapersons about the benefits of the LEMOA, Parrikar in a “matter-of-fact” tone interjected and clarified: “This does not mean stationing of US troops on the Indian soil.” What Parrikar and Carter have okayed is a re-jigged version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), a cast-in-iron framework, which the US was keen on getting India to sign.

Parrikar is fully aware of the impact this can have on India’s relations.

An angered Moscow could hold back crucial nuclear technologies for the three Arihant class of nuclear submarines, the BrahMos supersonic missiles and even stop the impending lease of another nuclear-powered attack submarine of the Akula class. As per a report by the Sweden-based think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), realised in February this year, Russia was the biggest weapons supplier to India between 2011 and 2015. “Russia supplied 70 per cent of India’s arms imports, the US 14 per cent,” the report said.

Another thing that has emerged from the latest Parrikar-Carter meeting is that the two sides are not on the same page in terms of technology transfer, a pre-requisite India has said if the US-based companies are to participate in the ‘Make in India’ programme for fighter jets. The US has, so far, been non-committal. At the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on April 8, Carter had termed the technology transfer challenges as ‘surmountable’. The US team has been told that the US government has to assure on technology transfer. The US has promised help in the third sea-borne aircraft carrier technology.

Former Indian Defence Secretary Sekhar Dutt, during whose tenure the Defence Framework agreement was first signed in 2005, says: “Technology is one issue in which we can benefit from the US.”

What Carter and his team have promised under the much talked about Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), have been low-end products and not the transformative technology needed by India. The DTTI has basic technologies such as mini UAVs, which India may not even want and even rejected two of these.

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