by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th July 12
In New Delhi today, visiting US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter declared that the Pentagon had, in the last two months, decided to move beyond merely selling India weaponry, towards a technology partnership in which American and Indian scientists would develop defence products together.
In June, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had appointed Carter his point man, specifically for deepening “defence trade” with India. But in Carter’s first visit to India since then, he avoided that phrase, talking up “defence cooperation” instead.
Responding to a question from Business Standard about the switch from “defence trade” to “defence cooperation”, Carter admitted that this reflected a better American understanding of New Delhi’s requirements.
“Trade suggests a buy or sell relationship or transactions. One of the things… Secretary Panetta and I learned as we… talked to our Indian colleagues…, we learnt that what India wants, and what we would want in the long term, is more than just buy and sell. We want to do things together and we want to develop products together and we want to produce technology together. So there is a little bit of a difference between trade and cooperation. And between the two we are really looking at cooperation.”
Although Defence Minister AK Antony, has not reciprocated Panetta’s signal, Carter was received today by top Indian officials: Antony himself, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, and the foreign and defence secretaries.
Carter said he remained upbeat about his mission even though he had no interlocutor. “I’m really focused on results not the mechanism. And I think we’ll get the results with whatever is decided on the Indian side,” he said.
Addressing a business and media gathering organized by CII, Carter outlined what he said were practical steps that could improve US-India defence cooperation.
First amongst them was to limit the powerful Washington and New Delhi bureaucracies that cited outdated rules and regulations to limit cooperation. “The only limit to our cooperation should be our independent strategic decisions – as any two states may differ – not bureaucratic red tape…. Our shared challenge in the next era is to find concrete areas to step up our defense cooperation, so that only our imagination and strategic logic, and not administrative barriers, set the pace,” said Carter, urging both sides to “set big goals.”
Carter talked up trust on both sides. “Practically, we want to be India’s highest-quality and most trusted long-term supplier of technology, in such fields as maritime domain awareness, counter-terrorism, and many others. We are committed to India’s military modernization. India is a top priority in our export considerations. We trust India and know India is not a re-exporter or exploiter of our technologies,” he said.
The ongoing reform of the US overall export control system under the “Export Control Reform initiative” would ease many of India’s concerns, said Carter. “India has been very frank in expressing its concerns with U.S. export controls and technology security policies. We are taking real steps to address India’s concerns,” he said.
Carter also urged New Delhi to consider two measures that would deepen US-India cooperation: reworking the defence offset policy, and enhancing foreign investment limit of 26% in the field of defence.