Indo-US defence deals and issues of larger interest are likely to remain the prime agenda during US Secretary of Defence (SoD) Chuck Hagel’s three-day visit to India which began on Thursday.
Before arriving in India, Hagel indicated at a meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, that the agenda is to build a relationship and not just strong military-to-military ties.
“In India, I’m going to follow (US Secretary of State John) Kerry’s visit and our secretary of commerce, Pritzker’s, visit — they were there about a week ago,” Hagel was quoted as saying on the US Department of Defence’s official website.
“India represents the largest democracy in the world… They have a new government. The new prime minister is coming to Washington to see President Obama next month. So I’ll be there, working, yes, our specific issues, but it’s larger…than that,” he was quoted as having said.
Presently, defence deals between the two countries amounting to about Rs 20,000 crore are in the acquisition process. These include the Chinook heavy lift choppers, Apache attack helicopters, the M-777 howitzers, the multi- role helicopters for the Navy — for which US helicopter major Sikorsky is one of the contenders — besides others.
Hagel who arrived in India on Thursday will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides holding meetings with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha — the present chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee. This is Hagel’s first visit to India in his capacity as SoD.