A year after the crushing blow of losing India’s mammoth $12 billion contract for 126 fighter aircraft, the United States is now paying closer attention to India’s concerns. Many of the problems date back to the fallout of the U.S sanctions imposed on India in the wake of its nuclear tests, a move that froze technology sharing.
“We want to knock down any remaining bureaucratic barriers in our defense relationship and strip away the impediments,” Ashton Carter, the U.S. deputy defense secretary, said during a visit to India in July.
Carter was asked recently to take on the task of easing defense trade and technology transfer to India, and he says the U.S. government has begun to rework stringent export controls that hinder sharing of high-end technology.
“We trust India and know India is not a re-exporter or exploiter of our technologies,” Carter said. “We want to move beyond defense trade and towards cooperative research and development and co-production with India.”
With a wary eye on China’s military buildup, India is in the midst of an ambitious defense acquisition program — worth about $100 billion over more than a decade — to replace its aging Soviet-era arsenal and buy new fighter aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, infantry combat vehicles, helicopters, assault rifles, underwater submarines and tanks.
Because India’s own defense production industry is relatively small, much of that equipment has to be imported.
But India also wants an opportunity to build its domestic defense expertise every time it buys defense equipment from a foreign company — and in the long term become more self-reliant.
It is an effort that the United States is now trying to embrace.
A factory in the middle of a large swath of pastoral farmland in Adibatla, outside the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, is a model of how to build both goodwill and partnership, U.S. and Indian officials say.
The Bethesda-based aerospace major Lockheed Martin and the Indian company Tata Advanced Systems are jointly producing wing parts and tail sections for the American Super Hercules military transport aircraft at Adibatla.
Earlier this month, the factory produced six wing parts in India to be assembled in Lockheed Martin’s Atlanta factory.
“India is an expanding market for us, and by building our industrial footprint here, we are saying: ‘We are not here to sell and walk away. We have got our skin in the game. We are here to stay,’” Abhay Paranjape, national executive for India at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in an interview.