The sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to India is “not on the table right now”,a senior US Administration official has said even as the Pentagon takes steps to enhance defence trade relationship with New Delhi.
“This is not on the table right now. It has not been requested. We have not offered,” Andrew Shapiro,Assistant Secretary of State,Bureau of Political-Military Affairs,told a group of reporters in a breakfast meeting with Defence Writers Group.
“At this particular moment,I can’t point to something concrete. As the relationship develops,we will see what happens in all short of areas,” Shapiro said when asked about the news reports in this regard following a recent Pentagon report on US-India Security Cooperation indicating possible sale of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
In April,Shapiro had conducted the first pol-mil dialogue between the two countries in six years,whose theme,he said was to deepen the India US defence trade relationship.
As of now the US is focused on other sales with India including the Apache helicopters,M77 Howitzer,where “we have been encouraged and hopeful that we would be able to complete sales,” he said.
“We believe that there is tremendous potential for US arms sales to India. We have billions of dollars of pending sales which we are hoping would be successful. Our goal is to deepen the defence trade relationship,” he said.
Shapiro said the State Department is being consulted by the Pentagon on its recent move to remove the bureaucratic hurdles on enhancing defence trade between the two countries.
In June,Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had appointed the Ashton Carter,the Deputy Defense Secretary,as his point man on India charged with cutting through red tape in the two countries and facilitating joint development and production.
“His participation demonstrates priority and emphasis to which the United States places increasing our defence trade with India,” Shapiro said adding that this is something the State Department and the Department of Defence are working very closely.
Shapiro,who has been to India twice,said during the recently concluded pol-mil talks in April there was “significant discussion” on increasing defence trade.
India,he said has one of the highest approval rate for licenses. “We are really trying to further develop our defence trade relationship,” he said,adding that the number of denial of licenses to India of late has been around the one percentage range.
Most of the time when a license is not approved,it is mainly because of the paperwork issue,he added.
The Obama Administration,he said,has made great advances in America’s ability to transfer technology to India.
“We have been relatively forward leaning in our willingness to share some of our sensitive technologies with India,” he said.