The United States is now ready to help India with the latest technologies and equipment in the defence system, but the Trump administration cautioned, purchasing long-range S-400 missile defence system from Russia would limit cooperation.
This statement came just after a similar warning from a senior State Department official who had said that New Delhi’s deal to procure the lethal missile system from Moscow will have “serious implications” on India-US defence ties.
It is said that the S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. The first buyer of this amazing missile was China was and a government-to-government deal with Russia took place in 2014 for this advances missile system.
India and Russia signed a USD 5 billion S-400 air defence system deal in October last year after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Senior State Department official (South and Central Asian Affairs) Alice G Wells told House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation on Thursday that the US now does more military exercises with India than any other country.
Wells said, “Under the Trump administration, we’ve been very clear that we’re ready to help meet India’s defence needs and we are seeking a very different kind of defence partnership building on the ‘Major Defence Partner’ designation that India has received from Congress.”
Just a few weeks ago, India, the United States, the Philippines and Japan did sail by in the South China Sea, she said.
Wells also stated, “In both our bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral formats, we’re working together in ways that we didn’t even conceive of 10 years ago. And so we’d like all aspects of our military relationship to catch up to this new partnership.”
She said that India has a historical dependence on Russian arms, and what causes concern with the S-400 is that it effectively could limit India’s ability “to increase our own interoperability”.
In response, wells said, “It is the case that 10 years ago we did not offer the range of military equipment to India that we’re prepared to offer today. We’re very much engaged in a conversation with India over how we can broaden our defense relationship.”
The signing of COMCASA agreement between the two countries, she said, was a key step forward which allows for the classified sharing of information, which is one of the basic foundational agreements that foster military interoperability.
She said that over the last 10 years, India-US defence trade has increased from zero to USD 18 billion, as New Delhi has started to diversify its weapons sources.
She also states, “We expect continued progress and expanding that defence relationship. But it’s still the case that about 65 or 70 per cent of India’s military hardware is Russian origin.”
And when Russian President Putin visited India last October, there were additional announcements of big ticket military items that were potentially under consideration, she said.
“Properly conducted trade can be a huge strength to the relationship and that’s certainly our focus as we begin our engagement with Prime Minister Modi in his second term as to how do we fix this part of the relationship,” Wells added.