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India wants weapons, we are ready to sell: US

April 27, 2012 14:48 IST

Hoping to get a bigger slice in the pie of massive Indian defence modernisation efforts, the US has said the level of its willingness to share defence technologies with India has never been higher than it is now.

"The level of our willingness to share technology with India has never been higher," Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, said.

The US bid for Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft -- which had failed -- demonstrated its willingness to transfer some of these technologies, he said.

In a wide ranging-interview to a group of Indian journalists, Shapiro, who last week held the first India-US PolMil dialogue in six years, said the US is willing to share best of its technologies with India and that the India-US defence sale and purchase is not a buyer-seller relationship.

The US is interested in providing India with the best technology it has, he said.

In the last 10 years the defence trade between the two countries has increased from virtually nil to $8 billion.

"Next decade, sky is the limit. We think, we have the best defence products in the world. India is interested in modernising its military across all the services.

"We think we have competitive technology and defence articles that would be able to serve their needs for each of their services," Shapiro said, but hesitated to put a number on the figures.

"From India any company that apply for licences are denied for less than one per cent of the time. That is comparable to our closest partners around the world," he said, adding the figures are that of last year.

Further, the processing time has decreased from 30-40 days on an average to just 17 days, he added.

"We are willing to sell defence articles to India and the refusal rate is very very low," he said. "We demonstrated our willingness to share high technology items. But there still have some shibboleths to work through the Indian system of working with the US and their willingness to work with our system," Shapiro said.

One of the bottlenecks that "I am willing to overcome is the idea that our foreign military sale (FMS), which is our government to government sale can't be used in a competitive bidding contest. Our FMS bids include life cycle cost and maintenance costs... so it comes in a little higher than others. By law, we cannot make profit on FMS sales. So it's corruption proof. You are getting the best price."
Shapiro hoped that America's Apache helicopters would be selected in India's attack helicopters competition.

During his trip to New Delhi, the two countries, he said, had discussions on a number of bilateral, regional and global issues, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and piracy.

Officials of the two countries talked about bilateral trade.

During the New Delhi meeting, he said, the two countries talked about how they would like to transfer technologies. The US would like that its technologies are secure.

"We talked about their desire for co-production and co-assembly agreements," he said, adding that they have a number of proposals for the potential projects that the two countries can do together.

Without specifically mentioning them, he hoped that India and the US would soon be able to reach agreements that would be helpful to both countries.

"Ballistic missile defence issue was not something that was discussed in detail during the dialogue," he said in response to a question.

The US official said the two countries are building a robust relationship based on shared security interests.

Since the signing of a bilateral defence framework agreement in 2005, the defence relationship has become a major pillar of the strategic partnership.

Now India holds more than 50 annual military exercises with the United States, more than any other country, which includes some of the sophisticated exercises. "Both military find those exercises tremendously productive," Shapiro said.

Responding to a question, he said there are no US special forces in India.

On Iran, he said the US is encouraged by the fact that India is seeking alternative sources of energy.

Replying to another question, he denied reports that the US is seeking India's help in using Iranian route to get its equipment's from Afghanistan as it begins the process of withdrawal.

"That would be news to me," he said.

On China, he said both the countries are not trying to characterise the Communist nation as a threat.
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