Gates Plans Push for Defense Technology Accords in India Visit

By Viola Gienger

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he’ll discuss moving forward on several agreements with the Indian government that would ease the South Asian nation’s path toward acquiring the latest defense technology.An accord to coordinate operations of communications equipment and ensure its security, and another that would allow cooperation on supply logistics are among the agreements Gates said he will pursue when he arrives in New Delhi tomorrow for a two-day visit. The defense chief, who will be making his first trip to India in almost two years, will meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Defense Minister A.K. Antony.

“Not getting these agreements signed is an obstacle to Indian access to the very highest level of technology” that they are interested in, Gates told reporters as on his plane to New Delhi today. “So we will be pursuing those agreements.”The accords would follow another sealed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visited India in July and won agreement on monitoring the use and any attempted resale of U.S. defense technology. That opened a door for $20 billion in defense and nuclear energy sales by meeting a requirement of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act of 1996.That so-called end-use monitoring agreement was “hugely important” to defense trade, Gates said. “Some of these other agreements would, I think, create even greater opportunities to expand that relationship.”

India is looking to build its defense industry by buying U.S. weapons, then learning how to make them at home to supply its own forces and, ultimately, to export supplies to other countries.

Foreign Investment

U.S. military weapons suppliers such as Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. also are lobbying India to increase the level of foreign investment allowed in its defense industry to 49 percent from the current 26 percent.That would let the contractors have more control over joint ventures while giving them greater incentive to transfer proprietary technology and participate in joint production.

Gates is seeking to increase U.S. ties with India, the world’s largest democracy and fastest-growing economy after China. President Barack Obama has called India a “critical partner” on issues from climate change to combating terrorism.Joint military exercises with the U.S. have increased steadily since 2002. India also has pledged $1.3 billion for development in Afghanistan, and participates in a multinational anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa.

Gates in a speech in Singapore last May described India, along with China, Russia and Indonesia, as “new and re-emerging centers of power.” The U.S. expects India, with its army of 1.4 million and an Air Force that includes 900 combat aircraft, to be “a partner and net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond,” Gates told an audience at an annual Asian security conference.India’s and Pakistan’s status as nuclear powers compound their political and military influence.

Pakistan’s National Command Authority cautioned in a Jan. 13 statement that India continues to “pursue an ambitious” program to build up its military, adding advanced weapons systems that may destabilize South Asia.

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