The United States Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, is visiting India from April 10-12 and will be in Goa and Delhi. American officials say that this visit is at the personal invitation of Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar during his visit to the United States last December.
During this visit, Parrikar became the first Indian Defence Minister to be hosted aboard an American aircraft carrier, USS S Dwight D Eisenhower, and witness flying exercises. Before going to the Pentagon, Parrikar was also invited to visit Honolulu in Hawaii. As a reciprocal gesture, Parrikar has now invited Carter to Goa where both will be boarding the Indian aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya at Karwar naval base. This is the first time an American Defence Secretary will be boarding the Russian-built carrier which was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2014. The two will also be boarding the USS Blue Ridge, which is the oldest ship in the Seventh Fleet of the US Navy.
After spending the first two days in Goa, the two sides will have delegation-level talks in Delhi on April 12. Sources in the Defence Ministry have told The Indian Express that there are a couple of sensitive issues which the Indian side will raise with the Americans. The first is the dissonance between the US private defence suppliers and the Pentagon when it comes to transfer of technology for ‘Make in India’ in defence. While private US defence manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin promise full technology transfer to India, the Pentagon invokes certain rules and regulations to ensure that some key technology is denied to the Indian armed forces.
The second issue which has irked Delhi is the continuing supply of fighter aircraft, military helicopters and high-tech equipment to Pakistan by the United States. South Block finds this “very disconcerting” and is going to “forcefully” convey its points to the American delegation. There are expectations that the two sides could announce the signing of the deal to manufacture M-777 howitzer guns in India. All formalities of that deal have been completed and only the final signatures remain which could happen on April 12. There could also be some announcements on the progress in DTTI projects where the steering group has met in India last month.
While in Delhi, Carter will also be taking part in a ceremony to mark the repatriation of the remains of US Air Force members who died in an air crash in Arunachal Pradesh during the Second World War. As reported by The Indian Express, this is a first. The tempering of expectations around Carter’s India trip has allowed the two sides to work hard on tangible outcomes from the meeting. On April 12, we will know if even the limited expectations have been met from this visit by the US Defense Secretary.