Even as India and USA inch ever closer, a top official of President Trump’s administration has reiterated Washington’s support to help India in modernising its armed forces by providing the country with advanced defence platforms and solutions. According to Ambassador Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, advent of American-based companies to Indian market will assist in taking the defence relations shared between the countries to the next level.

In a written testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ambassador Wells, said that the Department of State is committed to advocating on behalf of American companies as they compete for defence deals in the Indian market. Ambassador Mrs. Wells, further noted that if India could indeed seize upon these opportunities, they would go on to enhance interoperability between the forces and also support thousands of jobs in both countries.

These developments come as a major relief to US based defence companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which are contesting with several other global aerospace companies to provide Indian forces with cutting edge defence technology.

While Boeing is pitching its F-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft for the MRCBF (Multi Role Carrier Borne Fighter) tender floated by the Navy, Lockheed Martin is offering the Indian Air Force (IAF) its venerable F-16 fighter to meet IAF’s single-engine aircraft requirement. Packed with state-of-the-art systems and having unmatched combat experience, these fighters led their respective fray, only until, Trump’s ‘America First’ policy truncated their lead.

USAF F-15C Eagles and Indian air force MIG-27 Floggers fly together during Cope India 04; Courtesy – IAF.

Since taking reins of the Oval Office, America’s power seat, President Donald Trump has campaigned strongly for his much talked about ‘America First’ policy, under which he plans to put the interests of American workers and businesses first when it comes to trade. This controversial policy, which restricts US companies from transferring jobs to foreign lands, has emerged in stark contrast to NDA government’s Make in India initiative.

In line with the government’s Make in India initiative, all major multi-billion dollar defence deals are being floated with a mandated offset clause and are further driving the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) towards setting up local production and assembly line in India. The Indian government through this initiative plans to attempt in realising its dreams of being self-reliant in defence equipment manufacturing.

To sweeten their deal to India both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have offered to set-up production lines in India, if their fighters are chosen. This mandated that a major part of existing US-based production line had to be transferred to India, risking the jobs of countless Americans. The Department of State’s renewed assurance has come as a shot-in-the-arm for the offers being made by US companies.

The deal for the F-16s and also for the F-18s and the following technology transfer is expected to take the centre stage in the Indo-US bilateral dialogue when Secretary of Defense General James Mattis (Rtd) visits India.