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No agreement to be signed during US visit: Antony

August 26, 2008 15:13 IST

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With the Indo-US nuclear deal "on the right track," Defence Minister A K Antony will visit the US this September to "continue the defence cooperation dialogue" between the two countries, but no agreement will be signed during the trip.

"Actually, it is part of my return visit... I am going to the US not to sign any agreement. It is part of the continuing defence dialogue between the US and India," Antony told reporters after inaugurating a defence seminar at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi [Images].

Antony said it was on the invitation of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who was in New Delhi a few months ago, that he would be travelling to the US.

"India has a cordial defence partnership with the US. During his (Gates') visit and after that, he invited me to the US. I accepted that invitation and I am going there," he said to a query.

Antony will be leading a high-level delegation to the US and his entourage will comprise Defence Secretary Vijay Singh [Images], Eastern Army Commander Lt-Gen V K Singh, Air Officer (Personnel) Air Marshal S Mukherjee, and Director General (Acquisitions) S K Sharma.

With India's military hardware purchases expected to touch $50 billion in the next five years, the two countries are looking at joint collaborations and research in advanced weapon and platform systems.

Towards this end, the two countries, are looking at concluding key agreements to open doors for transfer of advanced American technology to India.

Asked about the defence agreements with the US, Antony said these were part of official-level discussions and are currently progressing.

"Once the discussions are complete, these agreements can be signed. During my visit, do not expect anything," the minister said.

The US, comparatively a new entrant to the Indian defence market, is hoping to lay groundwork for far wider cooperation between the two nations in arms building and setting up strategic security related partnerships.

US defence majors Lockheed Martin and Boeing are already vying for India's largest ever defence contract worth $10 billion to sell 126 fighter jets.

Lockheed Martin, earlier this year, made a start by inking a deal worth $962 million for sale of six C130-J Hercules military transport aircraft for Indian special forces. The company is hoping to sell four more aircraft and missile-approach warning systems to India by 2010.

With the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government recently winning a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha, Washington and New Delhi are also expected to give final touches to key defence protocols between the countries such as end-user verification agreement and sewing up the logistics support agreement.

During his visit, Antony and his entourage will visit key complexes of the US Army and view the missile defence shield and other advanced armament systems, officials said.

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