End-user hurdle in Indo-US arms deals may soon be cleared

India is close to signing a new overarching end-user agreement for weapon purchases from the US that will give it access to top-end....

Written by Manu Pubby | New Delhi | Published: February 11, 2009 12:40 am

India is close to signing a new overarching end-user agreement for weapon purchases from the US that will give it access to top-end technology but will entail inspections of the systems by American regulators.

A top Pentagon official said the two countries were close to resolving the end-user issue that had become a major obstacle in Indo-US defence relations after the Left parties objected to its conditions that mandated annual inspections of higher-end technology sold to foreign countries.

A new modified draft that has been prepared by India will be discussed with top American officials this week,the Director of the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency,Vice Admiral Jeffery Wieringa,said. He said the Indian Government would propose a ‘new language’ for the agreement that would come up for discussion this week.

A senior Pentagon official had confirmed last month that lawyers from the two sides were working together to look at the US domestic laws and figure out a language that would be suitable to India.

Vice Admiral Wieringa said India was interested in having an overarching ‘ombibus’ end-user agreement for all defence deals rather than chalking out separate agreements for individual deals like the C 130 J Super Hercules special operations transport aircraft.

“What I believe is that Indian officials are not in favour of a case by case signing of such agreements as it would be a long and time-consuming process. What I believe in general is that the Indian Government doesn’t object to the end-user agreement at all,” the Pentagon official said.

Wieringa said the two sides had discussed the issue during a visit to the US by Defence Minister A K Antony in September last year and had agreed on the broader terms of the agreement.

“I was present at the meeting between Defence Minister A K Antony and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and the feeling I got was that we were very very close (to agreeing on the terms),” the Vice Admiral said,adding that the US was “delighted” with Antony’s ‘stand’ on the issue.

What the end-user agreement would mean is that India will have more access to top-end US technology like missiles and sensors for equipment like the Boeing P8I but the same could also be subject to inspections by US regulators under their domestic laws. The official said the US had a similar agreement with over 80 countries to which it supplies weapon systems.

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