The India-US defence relationship which has experienced a very ambitious and positive trajectory has been an engine of growth of the overall bilateral ties, according to a top official of a business advocacy group.
The US India Business Council (USIBC) that represents top American companies, having their footprint in India is taking a high-powered delegation of the US defence companies for 17th Defence Executive Mission to DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow from February 5-9.
"Clearly the US India defence relationship is one that has seen just a very ambitious, and positive trajectory and it's been an engine of growth not only for the security partnership between our two come through countries, but frankly it's been an engine of growth in the overall relationship," Nisha Desai Biswal, President, USIBC told PTI in an interview.
"Because of that very strong convergence between the United States in India on a set of shared goals, objectives and orientations or perspectives in the Indo-Pacific, we have seen extraordinary movement, in the security partnership and that has helped in a way be the glue to get us over any other potential rough spots that emerge from time to time," Biswal said.
Biswal, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia in the Obama administration, referred to the "astonishing" growth in India-US defence trade from a couple hundred million dollars in 2000 to USD 18 billion now.
That gives one a sense, but of course it's not just about the dollar value, it's about the capabilities that the United States and India are investing in as they look at India's military modernisation, she said.
Its ability to be a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific; its ability to carry out extraordinarily complex missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as we saw in the Nepal earthquake response; as we saw in the evacuations in Yemen and in many other missions where India is not only, meeting its own needs but as being a net provider of support globally, she added.
"That is because of the investments that are being made in its military capabilities. The US is really proud that we are an anchor partner that we are major defence partner with India. And that we have an all domain relationship that goes ground, air and sea, she said.
As such the Defence Expo is really, really important for the US. The mission includes executives from over a dozen top US aerospace and defence companies seeking to enhance partnerships within India's rapidly growing defence ecosystem.
The delegation will include representatives from BAE, Continental Carriers, General Atomics, Jacobs, L3Harris, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Telephonics and Textron, among others.
"We also are very proud to have a lot of Indian partners who are part of our aerospace and defense vertical and who will be joining us at Def expos in Lucknow and are very important part of all of the work that we do in, in the aerospace and defence vertical, she said.
In collaboration with India's Department of Defence Production, the USIBC will also host an industry session at DefExpo 2020 on February 6, focused on the US defence industry's contributions towards Make in India.'
The session will explore the investment environment in India's defence sector and opportunities for collaboration between US and Indian defence companies.
Referring to the display of India's military might during the Republic day Parade in New Delhi including US-made Apaches, Chinook and C-17 and C-130s, she said "it's an indication of how India also has reoriented and diversified" its own partnerships in keeping with its own interest.
As we look to the future, we can look to a future where a Republic Day parade is an incredible showcase of indigenous talent and indigenous development," she said.
Biswal said it also showed that the co-production and co-development that characterises what the US-India defence partnership has really focused on, which is that we can work together, develop the technologies and capabilities that will not only meet India's needs but also help India be a major hub in the global defence supply chain.
Responding to a question, Biswal said that there are likely to be some big announcements on defence trade in the coming months.
"Some of the different technologies that have been under consideration, whether it's movement on additional helos (helicopters) or there's been a lot of talk on maritime domain awareness and platforms like the sea guardians, the P8s have been a really important, enabler for India to expand it to its maritime capabilities."
"So we see more of these kinds of acquisitions in the coming months," she said.