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IAF deal exit: US disappointed but hopeful

August 25, 2011 11:15 IST

Even months after India decided to forego the United States bid for the fighter aircraft deal worth $11 billion, the Pentagon apparently is still smarting over this rejection, arguing that it was an enormous disappointment and that New Delhi by its action had lost out on some of the state-of-the art technology.

Talking to media persons, Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defence for south and southeast Asia emphasised, "I was really amazed and impressed with the level of technology we had agreed to release to India for these fighter aircraft. This is a level of technology that we had not looked to release anywhere"

Scher later told rediff.com, "If you look at the technological specifications of the equipment that we were willing to offer in the MMRCA competition -- the actual physical presence of these equipment and not just a good idea of an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar for example, but an actual functioning one that is proven in combat -- it is pretty amazing what we were willing to offer and surprised many people on both sides."

He argued that this was "something we will continue to work from," and predicted "subsequent sales are frankly easier because of the work we did on this very high-profile sale upfront."

With regard to Pakistan's concern over the growing Indo-US security relationship bolstered by a defence relationship and military sales, Scher said, "One of the key features of our approach toward both India and Pakistan has been that we no longer have to see this as hyphenated and that in fact, we can have good relations with Pakistan and with India. And, that there is no natural reason why we cant."

For all of the recent difficulties and the suspension of more than $800 million in US security assistance to Pakistan because of Islamabad's refusal to issue visas to American military advisers, the senior Pentagon official asserted that "we have a very strong relationship with Pakistan."

But, Scher said, "We simultaneously feel that we can very much have that relationship with India and that these are not competing. In fact, it will be difficult to have a strong relationship with one if we don't pursue a strong relationship with another."

"Consequently, I would push back and say that while it is certainly something we continue to look at (Pakistan's concern over the US-India defence relationship), we believe it is very important that all sides understand that this kind of strong relationship with each country is in everyone's interest for broader stability in the region."

"The only way to best serve all of our interests is to work cooperatively with both countries," he said, and added, "Interestingly, I know Prime Minister Manmohan Singh understands the important of working closely with Pakistan."

Hence, Scher said, "We are all encouraged by the dialogue that is happening between India and Pakistan across a range of issues."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC