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'Let's move India away from Russian weapons'

Last updated on: November 2, 2010 08:30 IST

'Let's move India away from Russian weapons'

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The Republican Party has asked United States President Barack Obama to seek a large pie of India's estimated $35 billion defence expansion plan when he meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi next week.

In a letter to President Obama, Republican Senator Ed Royce asked him to build on the defence co-operation between India and the US that was initiated by his predecessors Bill Clinton and continued by George W Bush.

"As you know, six foreign companies are competing to sell India 126 new multi-role combat aircraft in a deal that could be worth as much as $11 billion. India's selection process for this aircraft is advancing, with two US companies under active consideration," senior Republican lawmaker from California Ed Royce said in a letter to Obama.

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Photographs: US Navy Photo
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Senator Royce, in his letter of October 26, said heads of state from France, Russia and the United Kingdom were moving aggressively to advocate for their countries' aircraft proposal.

"Moving India away from its tradition of purchasing Russian equipment towards a US supplier would provide New Delhi with the best product, enhance Indian military's role in the region and improve interaction amongst our militaries," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which is with PTI.

Royce, co-chair of powerful Congressional Caucus in the House of Representatives, had accompanied Clinton during his trip to India in 2000 but he would not be travelling with President Obama this time.




Image: F/A18-E/F Super Hornet
Photographs: Boeing Photo
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"Defence cooperation between the US and India has made impressive strides in the last decade. India-US Defence Policy Group was revived in 2001 and now meets annually. In 2005, the US and India signed a 10-year defence pact, which outlines planned collaboration in multilateral operations and expanded two-way defence trade," he said.

He said based on mutual struggle with terrorism and interest in maintaining regional stability, both the countries have held a series of unprecedented and increasingly substantive combined exercises involving all military services in recent years.

He expressed his agreement with the Commander of US Pacific Command Admiral Robert Willard, who testified to Congress earlier this year, that "India's strategic location, shared democratic values, growing economy and evolution as a regional power combine to make them a partner with whom we need to work much more closely."




Photographs: Boeing Photo
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The Congressman said India was expanding its military's reach and key to that transformation would increase defence trade between our two countries.

"While it is estimated that Russia still provides India approximately 70 per cent of its defence supplies, Washington and New Delhi have reached major agreements on military transport and maritime surveillance aircraft in recent years. Some estimate that India could spend as much as $35 billion on defence procurement over the next decade," Royce said.

"No doubt you will be covering many critical issues on your trip to India; such is the nature of our comprehensive relationship. However, I think you will agree that military cooperation, consistent with US law, is among the most important aspects of our transformed bilateral relationship and encourage you to keep this aspect of the relationship moving in a positive direction on your visit," he said.



Image: Boeing is delivering eight P-8I aircraft to India
Photographs: Boeing Photo
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Reminding President Obama about the "opportunity to build our relationship into one of the defining partnerships of the 2lst century" while welcoming Dr Singh during his first official state visit of his presidency, Royce said "active defence cooperation between our two countries will be vital if that vision is to become a reality," he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy National Security Advisor Mike Forman deviated questions at a special White House briefing when asked about the possibility of C-17 deal with India during President's visit.

"I think I'll leave announcements for the announcements. But there are a whole range of potential contracts that are being worked on as we speak," Forman said.



Image: C-17 Globemaster III
Photographs: Boeing Photo
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