The sale of high-tech chemical protective clothing worth USD 75 million by the US to India which will protect Indian soldiers against biological and chemical warfare reflects growing bilateral defence relationship, an official here said.
For the first time, the Pentagon has notified to the Congress about the sale of Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) protective clothing, which when used with the chemical protective mask would be able to protect an Indian soldier from any kind of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare, the official said.
Developed by all four defence services to provide a common protective suit, JSLIST clothing includes the suit, boots and gloves and can be worn for up to 24 hours in contaminated areas.
The JSLIST consists of 38,034 units each: suits, pairs of trousers, pairs of gloves, pairs of boots and NBC bags; 854 aprons; 854 alternative aprons; 9,509 Quick Doff Hoods; and 114,102 M61 filters.
The entire package also includes 38,034 M50 general purpose masks.
"This is the first instance of a sale of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) Support Equipment being notified to Congress," a State Department official told PTI.
Wearing these protective gears can shield soldiers from exposure to chemical and biological agents and radioactive fallout particles that can result in a serious injury.
Noting that America's defence partnership with India is among "our most important and fastest growing" in the world, the official said 10 years ago, defence trade between the two countries was virtually non-existent.
Over the last few years, the US has signed more than USD 10 billion in defence sales to India.
"Our May 11, 2017 announcement of the possible Foreign Military Sale of CBRN support equipment to the Government of India is further evidence of these trends," the State Department official said on condition of anonymity.
This is the first major foreign military sale approved by the Trump administration in its endorsement of the previous Obama administration designating India as a major defence partner.
This designation brings India at par with other major US allies when it comes to defence trade and sharing of technologies.
"The United States has proven itself a reliable defence partner, with a record for transparency, timely delivery, and superior technology. We view and treat India as a major defence partner. More and more, American companies are forming joint ventures with India partners," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Noting that the US and India signed a renewed 10-year Defence Framework in June 2015, the official said the new Framework provides avenues for high level strategic discussions, continued exchanges between armed forces of both countries, and strengthening capabilities.
"We are continuing bilateral engagement on defence through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) and the India-US Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) Agreement," said the official as he reflected a continuation in India US defence relationship under the Trump Administration.
"The DTTI will facilitate cooperation in defence research and development, and the RDT&E Agreement commits us in principle to pursue co-production and co-development of four pathfinder projects, form a working group to explore aircraft carrier technology sharing and design, and explore possible cooperation on development of jet engine technology," the official said.