The US Ambassador to India, Timothy J Roemer, announced his resignation today, a day after the government decided not to shortlist two US companies for the $11-billion contract for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). The government has shortlisted European companies Dassault and EADS.
That Roemer was a family man was clear in his first press conference at arriving in India. In New Delhi, Roemer introduced to the Delhi press corps not just his wife, Sally, but his father and mother too. His mother also had words of praise for her daughter-in-law.
Today, as he announced he was leaving India, Roemer gave family as the reason, saying his two sons would go to university in 14 months and he wanted to spend more time with his family. He said he had told President Barack Obama earlier that he would like just a two-year term in India.
However, informally, Indian bureaucrats said the US had not expected to be overlooked for the deal in the first stage itself.
The impression in India was that Roemer’s return was prompted as much by his desire to return to US politics as to distance himself from the loss of the MMRCA deal.
A deal for manufacturing the 126 aircraft would have meant a lot for Obama’s promise of creating more jobs in his recession-hit country. “His return is a reflection of what his boss wants from India — commercial deals and jobs back home as well as non-interference on AfPak and other issues,” said a bureaucrat.
Carnegie Endowment researcher Ashley Tellis’s monograph, ‘Dogfight’, which came out earlier this year, had made a persuasive case for the contract to be awarded to a US company in the interest of Indian and US strategic goals.
The US Embassy acknowledged it was upset that Boeing and Lockheed Martin had not been considered.
“We are reviewing the documents from the government of India and are respectful of the procurement process. We are, however, deeply disappointed by this news. I have been personally assured at the highest levels of the Indian government that the procurement process for this aircraft has been and will be transparent and fair. I am extremely confident that the Boeing F/A 18IN and the Lockheed-Martin F-16IN will provide the Indian Air Force an unbeatable platform with proven technologies at a competitive price,” said a statement.
India, on its part, tried to sweeten things. The Cabinet Committee on Security is ready to clear the purchase of the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft at a cost of more than $4 billion. This will be through the foreign military sales route -- a government-to-government method of procuring defence equipment.