Home / Geopolitics / US India Defense Cooperation deepening from buying-selling and Intelligence Sharing to Strategic Partnership to counter China Threat

US India Defense Cooperation deepening from buying-selling and Intelligence Sharing to Strategic Partnership to counter China Threat

The Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh from May 2020 till Feb 2021. The tension escalated manifold after a violent clash in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35. China’s rise and assertive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific Region—as demonstrated most recently by the June 15 clashes between Chinese and Indian troops in the Galwan Valley region —has contributed to a strategic convergence between the United States and India.


Senior White House official said the US has stood with New Delhi during its military standoff with Beijing. “We have stood with India as it faced this aggression along its border over the last six-seven months. We provided equipment. We have been engaged with India, shown our moral support for India to be able to stand up to the Chinese and make sure that there’s a peaceful resolution and de-escalation of the situation,” said the official. During the Trump administration, the US has become the second-largest arms supplier to India, growing from virtually no sales a decade ago to more than $20 billion today, the official said.


The defense cooperation between the United States and India has been growing in recent years, driven in part by concerns over China’s increasing military power and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. Both countries share a common interest in maintaining stability and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, and view each other as important partners in achieving these goals.


US President Joe Biden’s administration has outlined its Indo-Pacific strategy that would “support Indias continued rise and regional leadership”, as Washington seeks to counter China’s attempts at global domination. The document released in Feb 2022 said: “We recognise that India is a like-minded partner and leader in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, active in and connected to Southeast Asia.”


China’s “coercion and aggression” is acute “along the Line of Actual Control with India”, it said. The document further said that as it continues to build its strategic partnership with India, the US will “contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, a region where China confronts the US and other countries.


On March 12, 2021, the first-ever leaders’ summit of the Quadrilateral Framework was virtually held. During this high-level summit, the leaders from the US, India, Japan, and Australia discussed the policy regarding Indo-Pacific; a region where all these four nations consider China as their common adversary. After the Quadrilateral Summit, US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin visited India and both countries agreed to further increase their military cooperation. It is quite noteworthy that both the countries have already signed military cooperation agreements such as LEMOA, COMCASA, and most recently BECA to eliminate the legal and operability challenges in the military, defense, and security cooperation.


Furthermore, India has been granted STA-1 status by the US so that it could access dual-use technology from the US. India is the first South Asian and third Asian nation to ever have that status. Under these agreements, India would be able to procure military dual-use technologies from the US.  Very recently, the Indian government has decided to buy 30 predator drones from the US amid growing tensions with China and Pakistan.


As per reports, India would acquire 30 armed MQ-9B Predator drones, built by General Atomics of the US at $3 billion worth. These predator drones have the endurance to fly for about 48 hours and can carry a payload of about 1700 kilograms. Furthermore, they can be equipped with laser-guided ammunition in addition to air-to-surface missiles and can carry sensors. According to the Indian media reports, the drones once acquired would be used by both the Indian Navy and Indian Army. The navy would use it to monitor the movement of Chinese vessels in the South Indian Ocean, while the Indian Army would use it to engage the targets along the disputed border between Pakistan and India.


During the February 2020, President Trump announced a defense deal of more than $3 billion, under which India will buy additional U.S. military equipment, including MH-60R naval and AH64E Apache helicopters (Indian Ministry of External Affairs, February 25). This was followed by a subsequent announcement in April of the U.S. intent to sell to India a package of Harpoon air launched missiles and lightweight torpedoes worth $155 million. The sale of ten AGN Harpoon Block 11 air-launched missiles is to cost $92 million; while the MK54 All Up Round Lightweight Torpedoes and three MK 54 Exercise Torpedoes are estimated to cost $63 million (DSCA, April 13 and April 13).


The Indian Army is fast-tracking the procurement of 72,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles for its troops from the United States as part of infantry modernisation, July 12 (PTI). The procurement is taking place at a time the Army is engaged in a tense border row with Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh. In October, 2017, the Army began the process to acquire around seven lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) and nearly 44,600 carbines. They said the Sig Sauer rifles will be used by troops deployed along the nearly 3,500-km border with China.


The weapons sales announced earlier this year have a clear naval orientation—a growing concern for India, as China’s presence in the Indian Ocean is on the rise. The helicopter acquisitions will help strengthen the Indian Navy, which currently lacks helicopters of similar capability. The Harpoon missile system and MK54 torpedoes will be integrated into the P-81 maritime reconnaissance aircraft for anti-surface warfare missions in defence of critical sea lanes, while also enhancing the Indian Navy’s inter-operability with U.S. and other allied forces.


Meanwhile, the US and India have asked Pakistan to take “tangible and irreversible action” against terrorist groups on its soil and deny safe haven to them to launch cross-border attacks, as Washington reiterated its firm support to New Delhi in the fight against terrorism. The US’ support to India was expressed by America’s National Security Advisor John Bolton during a meeting with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Wednesday. The US support came on the day when China for the fourth time blocked a bid to get Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council. A day after the Pulwama attack, Bolton had told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval that the US supports India’s right to self-defence as tensions escalated with Pakistan.


It also counterbalances China’s military modernization through Russian arms and technology. Asked about India and the US firming up close defence ties during the recent visit of US Defence Secretary James Mattis, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Col Wu Qian said ,”We hope that the military cooperation between India and the US will be conducive to regional peace and stability but not the opposite.”


Impact on India Russia relations

However, US-India Defence cooperation agreements threaten to affect existing Indo-Russian defence relationship.  In May 2018, Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the US House Armed Services Committee, asked India to seriously rethink the acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-missile defence system and warned that India purchasing it could set hurdles for building “interoperability” with the US in the future.


It has also asked India to lessen its dependence on Russian military hardware. Russia accounted for 62% of India’s arms imports during 2013–17, according to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in March. It revealed that arms exports from the US jumped 557% in 2013-17 as compared to 2008-12, making it India’s second largest arms supplier. Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd) said it was crucial for India to sustain its ties with Russia and any dilution in the relationship would directly impact India’s operational preparedness.


The United States has expressed particular concern regarding new streams of arms like the S-400 air defense system, because they fuel Russian power, diminish prospects for interoperability of and secure communications between U.S. and Indian forces, and preclude sharing of existing sensitive weapons technologies. They also restrict Indo-U.S. co-development of new technologies, which would likely be exposed to Russian technician observation, or espionage.


However, India’s concern that growing US India cooperation may affect it’s relations with Russsia. There has being growing Russia- pakistan relations.Russia, has signed an agreement with Pakistan for naval cooperation in July 2018, which is causing concern in strategic circles in New Delhi. The MoU between the two countries, which were once considered bitter rivals, was inked during the visit of Pakistan Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Kaleem Shaukat to the Russian Federation. The MoU comes close on the heels an accord between the two countries in April to enhance cooperation in the training of armed forces personnel in the naval field and conduct of wide range of joint military exercises. Pakistan has lately been turning towards Russia in terms of military support after US President Donald Trump halted the aid to the country in his new year’s tweet.


However, experts point out that Indian relationship with Moscow ensures continued access to spares and maintenance for India’s vast stock of Russian arms. It also  gains geopolitical support in multilateral institutions (e.g. United Nations Security Council). Russia also more readily allow access to advanced technology through joint-production of  e.g. nuclear submarines, and advanced cruise missiles. By comparison, the United States refuses to countenance the transfer of certain high-end items (e.g. nuclear submarines) to India, offers non-competitive or inflated prices (e.g. air defense systems), and is only in the nascent stages of enabling co-production (e.g. DTTI).


However, India did not join in Western sanctions against Russia or outright condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, raising questions about the divergent position it took from the U.S.


United States has become the second largest defense equipment supplier to India.

Over the past three years, Russian defense deals with India exceeded 340 billion rupees (over $5 billion), with the United States coming in at a close second with 300 billion rupees (around $4.4 billion) in deals. U.S. defense contractor Boeing alone has won bids to supply the Indian military with ten C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft (worth $4.1 billion), eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft (worth $2.1. billion), 22 AH-64E Apache, and 15 CH-47F Chinook helicopters (both helicopter deals have a combined worth of $2.5 billion). Besides, India is now a country with which the United States conducts the largest number of peace-time military exercises bilaterally every year (nearly 70).


According to defence analysts, India – the world’s largest arms importer – is poised to spend $250 billion in the next decade to modernise its armed forces by acquiring more lethal weapons and combat jets. India has raised the FDI cap in defence sector recently from 26 per cent to 49 per cent with an aim of boosting indigenous defence production. Foreign investment beyond 49 per cent has now been permitted through government approval route, in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country or for other reasons to be recorded. The condition of access to ‘state-of-art’ technology in the country has been done away with.


The US will also sell the famous MRAP vehicles to India to counter IEDs especially in the Maoist-hit areas for security forces who are frequently killed in landmine and IED blasts. The two sides are likely to sign is 145 ultra-light M-777 howitzers (worth $885 million), meant to be deployed by India’s new mountain strike corps which will essentially be China-centric. US has offered India high grade technology for the next generation of Indian Navy vessels. Indian navy are in the process of building over 40 different classes of warships and destroyers.


The sanctions on DRDO – that were placed after Pokhran II in 1998 , were lifted off in 2011. So far, DRDO and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have agreed only to joint development of explosive detection systems and C4I systems. The Sides noted the ongoing progress on the Engineers and Scientists Exchange Programme (ESEP) Agreement between India and the United States, which would further strengthen bilateral co-operation in defense research.


The two-way Indo-U.S. trade has also quadrupled in just seven years from $25 billion in 2006 to about $100 billion in 2013. Two sides are now targeting increasing trade to $500 billion in near term. The enhanced bilateral relations are a result of a significant increase in government-to-government dialogue, US Ambassador Richard Verma said. “We have broken every record that we keep in every category… The highest two-way trade numbers ever between the countries last year has reached USD 109 billion; the highest defence trade numbers last year was USD 15 billion; we even did USD 6 billion cumulatively in agri trade,” he said at the USA-India Innovation Forum in New Delhi

Deepening Strategic partnership

The United States and India have a number of mechanisms in place to advance their defense cooperation, including regular bilateral defense dialogues, joint military exercises, and defense trade and technology collaboration. The two countries have also been working to enhance their intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation, and have conducted joint naval patrols in the Indian Ocean.


The 11 September event in 2001 changed US perception on terrorism and elimination of global terrorist networks became a priority. This also led to understanding the Indian menace of cross-border terrorism which it was confronting since the latter part of the 1980s. India-US Counter-Terrorism Cooperation Initiative was signed in 2010 to expand bilateral collaboration between the two countries on various counter-terrorism initiatives such as exchange of information, operational cooperation, and developing and sharing counter-terrorism technology and equipment. The cooperation was further strenthened after President Barack Obama visited India in 2010, when both India and the United States agreed to exchange terrorist screening information through the designated contact points. Another milestone in this joint counter-terrorism initiative was set when India joined the US Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6 (HSPD-6). This was a significant step in the direction of exchanging unclassified biographic information related to terrorists. More recently, both the armies of India and the US together did a joint exercise mainly to practice efficient counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations. Both countries also raised the issue of terrorism and urged for collaborative practices to counter the same at several forums.


In June 2015 Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar signed a 10-year defense framework agreement, highlighting the growth of defense cooperation between the two countries. After the Summit-level meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama, India and the United States  agreed to extend their defence agreement for another 10 years. Out of that meeting grew the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative.The summit meeting at Washington between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June resulted in India being designated as “a major defence partner of the United States.”


In a joint statement, Parrikar and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said discussions ranged from “increased strategic and regional cooperation, to deepened military-to-military exchanges, to expanded collaboration on defense technology and innovation.” The Logistics Exchange Memorandum Of Agreement allows for reciprocal exchange of logistic support, supplies, and services between the two armed forces. This includes food, water, fuel, spare parts, repair, transportation, communication and medical services.


The Sides reaffirmed their commitment to work together as priority partners in the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean region in accordance with the roadmap for cooperation under the India-U.S. Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. In this regard, they welcomed the convening of the inaugural Maritime Security Dialogue in May 2016 and engagement on maritime domain awareness, including through a White Shipping Agreement. They also decided to strengthen cooperation in the area of connectivity.


Recognizing the growing threats and challenges in cyberspace and the serious risks to national security from malicious cyber activity, both Sides reaffirmed working together to promote cyber security, combat cyber-crime, advance norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, improve cooperation among technical and law enforcement agencies, and promote cyber R&D and capacity building. In this context, they welcomed the signing of the Framework for the India-U.S. Cyber Relationship.


The countries have been exchanging intelligence information as well as in our training and exercises under counterterrorism cooperation agreement. India and the US will enhance their counterterrorism cooperation, by sharing exchange information on their respective citizens who may be going off to Syria, Iraq or any other new terror hotspot. The intelligence cooperation will stretch to the defence forces who will now exchange their own sets of information and intelligence. The Sides reiterated their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and reaffirmed their commitment to dismantle safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks such as Da’esh/ISIL, Al-Qa’ida, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company and its affiliates and the Haqqani Network. The Sides called on Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks to justice.


New Delhi is also on the cusp of sealing a US nuclear reactor deal worth billions of dollars. In return, Washington has given New Delhi access to high-end military technology, such as a new system to launch planes off aircraft carriers, and leaned on other countries to give India membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime, which cleared the way for the sale of the unarmed Predator. India’s military has also asked for the armed version of the Predator to help target suspected militant camps in Pakistan but US export control laws prohibit such a transfer.


Military cooperation agreements

The US House of Representatives earlier  passed  NDAA-2018  that asks the State Department and the Pentagon to develop a strategy that addresses common security challenges, the role of American partners and allies in India-US defence relationship, and role of the defence technology and trade initiative. It also asks them to address how to advance the communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement and the basic exchange and cooperation agreement for geospatial cooperation.


India and the US made “landmark” progress in 2018 to bolster their strategic and defence ties – from holding the maiden trilateral meeting with Japan to the first-ever 2+2 dialogue during which they signed the long-pending COMCASA agreement that would open the way for sales of more sensitive US military equipment to India. The bilateral defence trade between Indian and the US is expected to reach USD 18 billion by year end, the Pentagon said in Oct 2018.


They began a new generation of military and security cooperation by signing Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), a legal framework that enables the transfer of critical, secure and encrypted communications between weapon platforms to facilitate “interoperability”. They welcomed the signing of a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilise its existing US-origin platforms, a joint statement issued at the end of the bilateral dialogue declared. Trump Administration has also  said that it wants New Delhi to address its protocols and processes on protecting sensitive military technology and procurement processes to be a “tighter and closer partner” of the US


COMCASA is meant to facilitate use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India by US to fully exploit their potential. The agreement will give Indian military access to function on high-end secured and encrypted communication equipment which are installed on American platforms obtained by Indian Armed Forces. These platforms include C-130 J, C-17, P-8I aircraft, Armed predator-B or Weaponized Sea Guardian drones and Apache and Chinook helicopters. It shall also boost interoperability among the two forces, If a US aircraft or warship detects chinese submarine in Indian Ocean, the intelligence can be shared to Indian forces.


This agreement shall also enable closer cooperation between India and America in the maritime domain in response to China’s activity in the Indian Ocean. New Delhi and Washington reiterated their shared principles for the region and agreed to start exchanges between U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy in order to deepen maritime cooperation in the western Indian Ocean.


U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was in India in Oct 2020 to meet Singh and India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, for the U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. The United States and India reaffirmed their defense and security partnership by signing an agreement that would allow New Delhi to access U.S. satellite data crucial for targeting missiles and other military assets. The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), the third of the “foundational” pacts that aims to bring the armed forces of the two countries closer. BECA would lead to sharing information relating to various kind of data, whether it is imagery, hydrological, topographical or other kinds of data.


The 9th round of the India-US Strategic Security Dialogue was held in Washington DC in March 2019. The two sides exchanged views on a wide range of global security and nonproliferation challenges and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors. They committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six U.S. nuclear power plants in India.


“My overarching conclusion from the visit is that US-India strategic interests are broadly aligned, structural, and deep. That our relationship will continue to thrive and that commitment to this relationship transcends party lines both here and in New Delhi,” said the US diplomat.



Trump Administration has said that it wants New Delhi to address its protocols and processes on protecting sensitive military technology and procurement processes to be a “tighter and closer partner” of the US

Acknowledging India’s reliance on Russian military hardware for its defence needs, the Trump Administration has said that it wants New Delhi to address its protocols and processes on protecting sensitive military technology and procurement processes to be a “tighter and closer partner” of the US.


Senior State Department official reiterated that there is no blanket waiver for the punitive sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on countries buying major defence equipment from Russia. It’s the significant acquisitions that put at risk inter-operability, the official said in response to a question on CAATSA sanctions. “What’s the message that’s going to India, and where do you see them now, particularly with the potential purchase of a major system like the S-400?” the official was asked.


India announced its intention to acquire S-400 ‘Triumf’ surface-to-air missile systems from Russia in 2015. The contract worth USD 5.43 billion was signed during the visit of President Vladimir Putin to India last year. The US has opposed the S-400 deal with Russia with the Trump administration threatening to impose sanctions on the states that are acquiring weapons and military hardware from Russia. The official acknowledged India’s purchases of military hardware from Russia but underlined that the Trump Administration is not seeking to punish a country with a long sustainment line.


“So the Indians, while very interested – as they should be – in co-research, co-development, and co-production – which we are interested in, and our industry’s interested in – we don’t want it exposed because some Russians walking the shop floor decide to go walk away and put it in their handbag or knapsack and take it back to Moscow,” the official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said.


“We’re not going to allow that. So what we have pushed with Indians is: tighten up your procurement processes, tighten up your defence technology security processes and protocols, and then you’re putting yourselves in a much more mature space to be a tighter, closer partner,” said the State Department official.


The official pointed out that by defence technology, “we’re looking at unique technology that is either developed in the United States or we’ve co-developed with other partners, we don’t want it stolen and we don’t want it exploited.” And that’s not just to India; that’s to other partners that are aspirant to doing more co-research, co-development, co-production, the official said. It’s possible, industry’s interested, the US is interested, but the administration can’t do it in a fashion that will expose it and its industry, the official added.


Observing that the US recognises how India suffered at the fall of the Soviet Union, the official said a lot of those who were closely aligned with the Soviet Union – when those lines essentially got turned off,– it was catastrophic if one was serving in the Ministry of Defence in India in the early 1990s.“So we get that,” the official said.


“It’s incumbent upon not just the State Department to advocate upon defence trade, it’s incumbent upon us to protect our technology and protect what is unique about American systems and defence technology. If we don’t do that, we’re abdicating our duty and we’re exposing not only our industry, we’re also exposing our own national security,” the official said.


“So for India, yes, there’s opportunity, but they have got to address their protocols and their processes on protecting defence technology and procurement processes,” the official. Responding to a question, the official said that if there’s a country that has a long sustainment line on, say, the Kalashnikov, the AK-47, the US is not going to sanction them because that is the rifle of choice for their army.


“That would be ridiculous. We certainly don’t want to put at risk their self-defence and their sovereignty, and so that is a legitimate concern when I hear from ambassadors here and their defence attaches and when I go abroad and hear from ministers and chiefs of defence. We’re not looking to take a light switch and turn off their ability to defend themselves, and that is a legitimate concern they have,” the official said.


“What we are being very clear about, what Secretary Pompeo has been very clear about on the road, is don’t get cute with CAATSA. So just because you have some old sustainment lines, don’t think that you can then go acquire a significant system like an S-400 or Su-35 and be like, ‘Hey, doesn’t really count because we have some earlier sustainment lines that predate 2017’,” the official said.


“So it is a matter of having a very transparent conversation with them, face to face and in open fora, to say there are certainly considerations of your historic sustainment lines, but do not seek new significant acquisitions that will put you at risk not just with us but with other partner states that you aspire to work with,” the State Department official said


Military exercises

Bilateral military exercises and defence exchanges are an important aspect of deepening bilateral defence cooperation between India and the US.  The 10th edition of the joint military exercise named “Vajra Prahar” between India and the US was held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Seattle from October 13 till October 28. The  45-member Special Forces team from the Indian Army trained  alongside US Special Forces. Last year, the exercise had taken place in Jaipur. “Vajra Prahar” is a Special Forces joint training exercise conducted alternately in India and the US. Earlier in September 2019, a joint military training exercise “Yudh Abhyas” had taken place at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord.


In July 2020, A US Navy carrier strike group, led by USS Nimitz,  conducted maritime drills with Indian warships in the Indian Ocean region (IOR), against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff in Ladakh. While operating together, the US and Indian naval forces conducted high-end exercises designed to maximize training and interoperability, including air defence, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement. It said the Nimitz carrier strike group’s operations were designed to provide security throughout the region while building partnerships with friends and allies. The 7th Fleet is the largest of the US Navy’s forward-deployed fleets.


“Naval engagements such as these exercises improve the cooperation of US and Indian maritime forces and contribute to both sides’ ability to counter threats at sea, from piracy to violent extremism. These engagements also present opportunities to build upon the pre-existing strong relationship between the US and India and allow both countries to learn from each other,” it added.



Defense Industrial Partnership

The US has agreed to release the technology for the advanced Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for the Indian Navy’s under development future aircraft carrier, INS Vishal.


The two defence ministers also announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration. India and the U.S. signed the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) years ago and it allows the sharing of classified information from the U.S. government and American companies with the Government of India and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) but not with Indian private companies. An ISA is required to enable private Indian participation in defence production and is particularly important as India opens up defence manufacturing to the private sector in a big way.


The previous NDAA-2017 had designated India as a major defence partner which brings India at par with closest American partners in terms of defence trade and technology transfer. Recognising India’s status as a ‘Major Defence Partner’, the US has made necessary changes in its export control laws that would benefit India by facilitating smoother transfer of technologies and arms to it.


India and the United States are seeking to “re-energise” their Defence Technology and Trade (DTTI) partnership to support expanded emphasis on joint development and production, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said. In a bid to revitalise a defence technology sharing pact, India and the US in Oct 2019  signed a ‘statement of intent’ on key deliverables, including collaboration on strategic projects in the areas of unmanned aerial systems, small arms technology and surveillance.


The resolve to speed up defence collaboration in critical areas was made at the 9th India-US Defence Technologies and Trade Initiative (DTTI) group meeting co-chaired by Secretary (Defence Production) Subhash Chandra and US Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord.


“Today we agreed that we have three near-term projects — air launch small unmanned aerial systems, lightweight small arms technology and finally intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance or ISTAR,” Lord told a select group of journalists after the DTTI meeting. She exuded confidence that the near-term projects will move forward to a project agreement or to Foreign Military Sales (FMS) within “six months or so”. “We have two mid-term projects — maritime domain awareness solution and virtual augmented mixed reality for aircraft maintenance,” Lord said


India and the United States have committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India.


“The heart of that is to create cooperative technology and industrial relationships that are not just the buyer-seller kind,” the secretary said. “Both we and the Indians want to move beyond that, and there’s no reason why that can’t occur in the sense that industry wants to do it. We’re very willing to be flexible, creative. We are being that with a number of pathfinder projects.” The agreement requires both countries to cut through the “historical burden of bureaucracy,” he said. “It’s the burden that we carry forward from the fact that we were two separated industrial systems for so long during the Cold War,” Carter said. “It just takes time to get the two of them together.”


Also in 2012, the Indian IT behemoth Tata Advanced System Limited (TASL) and Lockheed Martin established a joint venture to produce C-130J Super Hercules airframe components. TASL also has a joint venture with Sikorsky, established in 2011, to co-produce S-92 helicopter cabins. In June 2016, TASL and Boeing announced a Hyderabad-based joint venture to manufacture components for Apache helicopters, and to collaborate on integrated systems development opportunities in India (U.S. Embassy in India, December 8, 2016).


Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI)

The three-day visit by US Defense Secretary James Mattis to India was the first to New Delhi by a senior official in the Trump administration. The main objective was to outline a joint defense strategy and to enhance overall cooperation between the two countries. Numerous sources reported that talks aimed at deepening coordination in the Indian-Pacific naval arena, as well as enhancing India’s role in targeting terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan.


These talks include potential collaboration on land systems and additional opportunities for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) system. Underwater surveillance systems such as sonars and sonobuoys are of particular interest to India as it is augmenting its capabilities to keep track of the increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.


US has sold equipment worth Rs 60,000 crore in the last 10 years to India but none of these weapon sales programme is about joint production or co-development and does not include transfer of technology. However, the Indian side is not too inclined to off-the-shelf purchases, and would instead push for arrangements that would galvanise Indian defence industry in partnership with US firms. Modi is pushing for greater participation by US defense companies in forging partnerships with domestic defense companies to boost the domestic defense industry.


The  DTTI initiative is aimed at co-development and co-design of defence equipment, weapons platforms and other military technology. Nine working groups have been established under the initiative, which aims to promote co-development and co-production of military technologies for use by both countries. The latest group set up recently is on new naval systems, such as sonars and sonobuoys, which are of interest to India. Two other joint working groups – one for development of new aircraft carriers, and the other to design new jet engines.


The United States and India virtually held the 10th edition of the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) Group Meeting in September 2020. According to a U.S. Department of Defense press release, the DTTI co-chairs – Indian Ministry of Defense’s Secretary of Defense Production Raj Kumar and the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord – signed a statement of intent “to strengthen our dialogue on defense technology cooperation by pursuing detailed planning and making measurable progress” on several existing DTTI projects.


The Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), the body responsible for working out areas of joint development in defense, has several weapon projects on the table, Some of the technologies are big data for predicting terrorist attacks and for smart surveillance, anti-tank Javelin missile, the Hawk 21 surface-to-air missile and magnetic catapults, which help larger planes take off from smaller ships. In addition to LEMOA, two “pathfinder projects” were announced, to co-develop a Digital Helmet Mounted Display; and so was a Joint Biological Tactical Detection System for protection for individual soldiers from chemical and biological weapons.


The Javelin is included in the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) between India and the US, which means that that the US administration is ready to share technology and to co-produce and co-develop future weapon systems in India. US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is ready to offer Javelin Anti-tank Guided Missiles through the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) between India and US, and `MAKE II’ set, say company officials. Speaking to Financial Express Online, Haley Donoho, International Business Development, Javelin said, “We are offering the Javelin ATGM through the DTTI route and if the deal is finalised it will be made in India under `Make II’ category.


Through the efforts of the DTTI, more than 50 per cent of the original or pathfinder projects have reached project agreement. Projects including synthetic aperture radar, hot-engine technology for indigenous light combat aircraft and stealth-coating technology are critical for widening the scope for DTTI cooperation. India and the US have identified small air launch unmanned aerial vehicles and a lightweight small arms technology project along with aircraft maintenance for defence collaboration, a top Pentagon official has said.


The United States and India have been working together on developing a series of small, unmanned, aerial drones that are to be launched from a cargo aircraft, specifically the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules or the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The drones are planned to be in use by both the U.S. and the Indian military. The system of drones are to be implemented for 3 main objectives: humanitarian assistance, cross-border operations, and cave and tunnel inspections, as reported by defensenews.com. These objectives allow for an efficient way to provide additional capabilities to the combat soldier on the ground. Drones are not the only things that India and the U.S. were involved in co-developing. The two nations were also involved in a lightweight small arms technology project. Where the mission here is to decrease the weight ground soldiers carry into war by about 40%.


The projects under DTTI will be identified as the near, medium and long term projects. The near-term projects included so far areAir-launched Small Unmanned Systems, Light Weight Small Arms Technology and Intelligence-Surveillance-Targetting& Reconnaissance (ISTAR). The medium-term projects identified are Maritime Domain Awareness Solution and Virtual Augmented Mixed Reality for Aircraft Maintenance or VAMRAM. The two long term projects are Terrain Shaping Obstacle and Counter-UAS, Rocket, Artillery & Mortar (CURAM) system for the Indian Army. While the progress of these projects was supposed to have been monitored on a monthly basis, the ongoing pandemic is likely to have delayed their timely execution.


To further defence innovation, a Memorandum of Intent was signed between the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defence Innovation Organization — Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX), which will look into joint projects for co-production and co-development projects through the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).


Despite these impressive bureaucratic mechanisms to improve U.S.-India defense technology cooperation, many analysts note that it tilts more toward outright defense sales and less toward technology transfer, a key Indian ask as the country pushes for indigenous defense manufacturing. Experts point out that DTTI has underperformed its goals due to mismatch in expectations.While traditionally, the United States has viewed DTTI as a way to sell hardware by bypassing India’s cumbersome defense acquisition process, India views DTTI as a way to access privileged U.S. technology.


One key Indian expectation from the DTTI was acquiring jet engine technology from the U.S. However the DTTI “suspended” potential collaboration on jet-engine technology despite having set up a dedicated working group for it which had met on several occasions. Lord’s explanation for this decision at the time was that transfer of such technology to India would run afoul of U.S. export-control laws.


Experts have  suggested that the focus of DTTI should move away from big-ticket items to co-development of smaller platforms and nascent technologies where both sides genuinely seek collaboration. This can build India’s indigenous defense technology ecosystem and absorptive capacity, though more slowly than India would like. This has already begun, with reports of cooperation on air-launched swarming drones.


However, the industries on both sides are very enthusiastic about future projects under DTTI. Despite concerns on the availability of raw-material, transparency, funding, licencing, and scepticism on the transfer of technology, they look forward to co-developing large, complex, futuristic and meaningful projects together. The industries also look forward to getting ‘space’ and ‘cyber-security’ under the gamut of DTTI.


In addition, in early 2018, it was announced that the Pentagon had agreed to host an Indian military representative at the Defence Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). Reportedly, the purpose behind posting an Indian representative at DIUx is to “gain first-hand experience on how the Pentagon and the private sector work together for national security. This unit identifies and invests in companies, including start-ups that fulfil US Department of Defense hardware or software requirements. The Indian representative will be able to identify solutions for the Indian military and explore which ones could work under the “Make in India” rubric.”


India’s defence Ministry has cleared a proposal that could give impetus to the first joint defence development project between India and United States for new, lightweight, protective clothing for soldiers. The project has been named as Defence Trade and Technology Initiative. The initial amount allocated for the project is Rs 300 crore. The Indian Army has planned to modernize it and also have plans to acquire chemical and biological resistant clothing in the current five year plan


The US believes this because India is currently the world fastest growing economy in the word, it will have the largest middle class, college graduates, holders, and mega cities. “…two-third of the population is less than age of 35 and there will be massive investment in infrastructure… So, we are quite optimistic and we are quite excited about India,” US Ambassador Richard Verma said. To achieve this, India would have continuously take reform measures on the policy sides besides stronger Intellectual property (IP) framework, Mr Verma said.


India & US sign Project Agreement for Air-Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Sep 2021

Ministry of Defence and US Department of Defence signed a Project Agreement (PA) for Air-Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (ALUAV) under the Joint Working Group Air Systems in the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) on July 30, 2021. The PA for ALUAV falls under the Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) Memorandum of Agreement between Ministry of Defence and US Department of Defence, which was first signed in January 2006 and renewed in January 2015. The agreement is a significant step towards deepening defence technology collaboration between the two nations through co-development of defence equipment.


The PA outlines the collaboration between Air Force Research Laboratory, Indian Air Force, and Defence Research and Development Organisation towards design, development, demonstration, testing and evaluation of systems to co-develop an ALUAV Prototype. The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) at DRDO and the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), along with the Indian and US Air Forces, are the principal organisations for execution of PA.Â


The agreement was signed by the co-chairs of the Joint Working Group Air Systems under DTTI, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Plans Air Vice Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari from the Indian Air Force and Director, Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate Brigadier General Brian R. Bruckbauer from the US Air Force.


United States and India Elevate Strategic Partnership with the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET)

President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) in May 2022 to elevate and expand our strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of our two countries.


Both countries will deepen cooperation in areas like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G wireless networks and semiconductors — areas in which China has acquired a dominating position.

To expand and deepen our technology partnership, the United States and India are launching new bilateral initiatives and welcoming new cooperation between our governments, industry and academia in the following domains:

Strengthening our Innovation Ecosystems 

  • Signing a new Implementation Arrangement for a Research Agency Partnership between the National Science Foundation and Indian science agencies to expand international collaboration in a range of areas — including artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and advanced wireless — to build a robust innovation ecosystem between our countries.
  • Establishing a joint Indo-U.S. Quantum Coordination Mechanism with participation from industry, academia, and government to facilitate research and industry collaboration.
  • Drawing from global efforts to develop common standards and benchmarks for trustworthy AI through coordinating on the development of consensus, multi-stakeholder standards, ensuring that these standards and benchmarks are aligned with democratic values.
  • Promoting collaboration on High Performance Computing (HPC), including by working with Congress to lower barriers to U.S. exports to India of HPC technology and source code.

Defense Innovation and Technology Cooperation

  • Developing a new bilateral Defense Industrial Cooperation Roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation between both countries for the joint development and production, with an initial focus on exploring projects related to jet engines, munition related technologies, and other systems.
  • Noting the United States has received an application from General Electric to jointly produce jet engines that could power jet aircraft operated and produced indigenously by India.  The United States commits to an expeditious review of this application.
  • Enhancing long-term research and development cooperation, with a focus on identifying maritime security and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) operational use cases.
  • Launching a new “Innovation Bridge” that will connect U.S. and Indian defense startups.

Resilient Semiconductor Supply Chains

  • Enhancing bilateral collaboration on resilient semiconductor supply chains; supporting the development of a semiconductor design, manufacturing, and fabrication ecosystem in India; and leveraging complementary strengths, both countries intend to promote the development of a skilled workforce that will support global semiconductor supply chains and encourage the development of joint ventures and technology partnerships on mature technology nodes and packaging in India.
    • Welcoming a task force organized by the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) in partnership with the India Electronics Semiconductor Association (IESA) with participation from the Government of India Semiconductor Mission to develop a “readiness assessment” to identify near-term industry opportunities and facilitate longer-term strategic development of complementary semiconductor ecosystems.
    • This task force will make recommendations to the Department of Commerce and the India Semiconductor Mission on opportunities and challenges to overcome in order to further strengthen India’s role within the global semiconductor value chain, and will also provide input to the U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue.  The task force will also identify and facilitate workforce development, R&D including with respect to advanced packaging, and exchange opportunities to benefit both countries.


  • Strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight, including establishing exchanges that will include advanced training for an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)/Department of Space astronaut at NASA Johnson Space Center.
  • Identifying innovative approaches for the commercial sectors of the two countries to collaborate, especially with respect to activities related to NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project. Within the next year, NASA, with ISRO, will convene U.S. CLPS companies and Indian aerospace companies to advance this initiative.
  • Initiating new STEM talent exchanges by expanding the Professional Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (PESEP) to include space science, Earth science, and human spaceflight and extending a standing invitation to ISRO to participate in NASA’s biannual International Program Management Course
  • Strengthening the bilateral commercial space partnership, including through a new U.S. Department of Commerce and Indian Department of Space-led initiative under the U.S.-India Civil Space Joint Working Group.  This initiative will foster U.S.-India commercial space engagement and enable growth and partnerships between U.S. and Indian commercial space sectors.
  • Welcoming the visit this week by the ISRO Chairman to the United States, as well as a visit to India by the NASA Administrator later in 2023.
  • Expanding the agenda of the U.S.-India Civil Space Joint Working Group to include planetary defense.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Talent:

  • Noting a new joint task force of the Association of American Universities and leading Indian educational institutions, including Indian Institutes of Technology, which will make recommendations for research and university partnerships.

Next Generation Telecommunications:

  • Launching a public-private dialogue on telecommunications and regulations.
  • Advancing cooperation on research and development in 5G and 6G, facilitating deployment and adoption of Open RAN in India, and fostering global economies of scale within the sector.


The initial focus will be on jet engines, artillery systems and armored infantry vehicles. During the February 2023 meeting in Washington, American officials said that the government would look into expediting a review of an application by U.S. manufacturer General Electric to jointly build jet engines in India for Indian aircraft.


Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, told reporters that the goal is for technological partnerships to be “the next big milestone” in the India-U.S. relationship.

Concerned about U.S. reliance on China for critical components such as semiconductors, Washington has taken steps to halt the sale of advanced semiconductor technology to Beijing and wants to shift the manufacture of such components to friendly countries.

“Geopolitics is a big driver of this new initiative,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center. He says the agreement reflects how far the India-U.S. relationship has come over the last few decades. “In recent years they’ve built enough trust to be talking about technology transfers and intelligence-sharing—something that Washington tends to do only with its closest strategic partners.”

The agreement also aims to facilitate joint development of defense technologies and weapons production in India. New Delhi wants to coproduce weapons in India with foreign defense manufacturers rather than purchase them outright, but U.S. restrictions on transferring defense technology have stalled such efforts with American companies.

Analysts in India pointed out that besides its longstanding policy of strategic autonomy, New Delhi’s choices were also constrained by its heavy dependence on Russia for weapons. Although India has diversified its defense purchases in recent years, more than two thirds of its military equipment is of Russian origin and critical to its security needs amid its standoff with China.

“Washington’s current policy is to play a long game and to try to persuade New Delhi that over the longer term, Moscow will be too cash-strapped and sanctioned to provide military supplies to India,” Kugelman said. “And that the U.S. will position itself to provide India with the types of military equipment that New Delhi has long secured from Russia.”



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