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High-powered US defence team for India

January 31, 2006 09:47 IST

In order to consolidate the momentum of the recent US-India defense discussions and the emerging strategic partnership between the two countries, the largest and most high-powered delegation, put together by the US-India Business Council, will be traveling to India.

The delegation will be led by General (Rtd) Paul J Kern, now a senior counselor with The Cohen Group, whose president is former Defense Secretary William Cohen, four-star Admiral (Rtd) Walter Doran, vice president of Navy Accounts for Business Development at Raytheon, and former NASA astronaut Andrew Allen, now vice president of International Fixed Wing Aircraft at Honeywell Defense & Space.

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The 31-member delegation will represent 22 of the leading defense manufacturers in the US, and will include besides Raytheon and Honeywell, Boeing, Lockheed, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, United Technologies Corporation, Bell Helicopter Textron, General Dynamics, MIC Industries, BAE Systems Inc, L-3 Communications, ITT Defense International, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Motorola Inc, and Emergent Bio-Solutions.

Members of the delegation will hold high-level meetings with industry and business leaders and senior Indian government officials in New Delhi and will also participate in the Third India Defense Industry Summit and  'Defexpo 2006' - India's largest land and naval systems exhibition organized by the Ministry of Defense and the Confederation of Indian Industry.

The US delegation will also participate in the Indo-US Defense Industry Symposium, which will bring governments and industries of both the countries together at a common platform to gain a clearer understanding of the acquisition process relative to each country and how best to proceed in advancing defense cooperation.

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This Defense mission, according to Ron Somers, president of USIBC, will seek to consolidate the spirit of partnership and cooperation between both countries, and continue discussions on relevant issues, culminating in meaningful defense cooperation, co-production, and alliances for the long-term. He said the delegation was looking forward to contributing to the momentum previously generated from US-India strategic discussions.

In an interview with rediff.com, on the eve of the departure of the mission, Somers said the key objective of the delegation was to demonstrate that US had a long-term commitment to India.

"The message obviously is that India is looking towards upgradation of their military and we believe that US companies offer some of the best technology in the world. The strategic partnership between our two countries is more than ever aligning our two democracies and we want to work together in a long-term partnership."

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He acknowledged that having some of these heavy-hitters like a four-star General and an Admiral and one of the most admired ex-astronauts to lead the delegation, clearly showed the seriousness of the mission to lend credence to the envisaged US-India defense cooperation, looked upon by both sides as the crown jewels of the strategic partnership.

"We have never before brought four-star individuals from the US military to India on this kind of a business delegation," Somers said, adding, "And then so uniquely, we have also included in the delegation as a leader, Astronaut Andrew Allen, who has logged over 900 hours in space. So this is a very exciting demonstration of our commitment to India and our desire to deepen the partnership."

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He said what the delegation members will share their experiences in forming alliances, in developing co-production facilities and in the engagement in meaningful defense cooperation with allies around the world, whom the US want to see flourish with India. 

Somers said that Kern, Doran and Allen, represent the cutting edge of US defense technology and systems. Kern, has spent a 40-year career in the US Army, as Commanding General, Army Materiel Command and Commander of the 4th Infantry Division, and has arguably made significant contributions to the US Army's digitization and transformation of the US Army's fighting capabilities.

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Doran, till recently was Commander of the US Pacific Fleet responsible for the world's largest combined fleet command, encompassing 102 million square miles and more than 190 ships and submarines, 1,400 fighter aircraft, 191,000 sailors and Marines and 30,000 civilians.

Allen, belongs to the elite fraternity of American aviators who have completed over 900 hours in space as a NASA Space Shuttle Commander and is considered an expert in the design, development and production of avionics and controls for mechanical systems for fixed wing aircraft applications. In an earlier role as NASA Commander, Allen was responsible for leading 4,000 employees performing Space Shuttle processing, launch and landing operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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"Besides them and their tremendous experiences and expertise, the 31-member mission represents 22 US companies - all the best brands that you can imagine in the defense sector - and this is our largest and most powerful executive defense mission to India yet," Somers added.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC