New Delhi: US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper will be visiting India on a two-day trip beginning Wednesday to push for the $15 billion fighter jet deal that the previous Narendra Modi government had failed to fructify.
Cooper is coming with the single biggest agenda of pushing the new Modi regime to expedite the defence deal, which has been pending for over a decade now, diplomatic sources have told ThePrint.
America wants India to buy their warplanes such as the F-16 Fighter Falcons or F-21 made by Lockheed Martin or the F/A-18 Super Hornet produced by Boeing. Both these giant defence conglomerates have said they were willing to set up their production facilities in India while making it an export hub.
Sources said while the Donald Trump administration is hopeful that the deal will prove to be “favourable” for the US, it is the interim period of waiting for the fruition of the deal that is proving to be “frustrating” for the American defence firms.
According to sources, the US government is mainly concerned over the fact that while the Indian government wants to build a fighter ecosystem in the country, it has not taken any positive policy measure on that front.
Sources further said while America is aware of the fact that the Indian Air Force is in urgent need of upgraded fighter jets, it cannot ignore the fact that the Indian government wants to procure the jets under its ‘Make in India’ initiative, which will be time-consuming, but will prove to be profitable in the long run.
India has been scouting for modern and upgraded fighter jets for a long time, but it was under the previous Modi government that New Delhi rolled out a fresh plan to procure over 100 such fighter jets.
Besides the US, India is also weighing the option of procuring fighter jets from Swedish defence major SAAB.
Cooper to meet Rajnath, Jaishankar
Cooper will be meeting Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Thursday. He may meet PM Modi too. This will be the first high-level visit from the US since the formation of the new government.
“American platforms are the ideal platforms if India wants to build a fighter ecosystem. The procurement process needs to speed up,” said Vikram Mahajan, director (Defence and Aerospace), US-India Strategic Partnership Forum.
Cooper’s visit will also pave the way for the proposed trip to be made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is planning to visit India on his way to Osaka, Japan, for the two-day G20 Summit to begin from 28 June.