India and the US on Sunday renewed an enhanced Defence Framework Agreement for the next 10 years and identified four key “pathfinder projects” for joint development and production including the next-generation Raven mini unmanned aerial vehicles and specialised kits for C-130 military transport aircraft.
Both countries also agreed on a working group to explore aircraft-carrier technology, besides designing and development of jet-engine technology.
The breakthroughs came following the high-level talks held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting US President Barack Obama. “Today, we have also decided to take our growing defence cooperation to a new level. We have agreed, in principle, to pursue co-development and co-production of specific advanced defence projects,” Modi said, addressing a joint press interaction with Obama.
Modi said this will help upgrade country’s domestic defence industry and expand the manufacturing sector in India. He added that both countries will also explore cooperation in other areas of advanced defence technologies. “We have renewed our Defence Framework Agreement. We will deepen our cooperation on maritime security,” he said.
The new framework will enhance bilateral defence partnership by stepping up joint military exercises and in-depth intelligence-sharing, maritime security efforts among others besides giving a strong push for joint- development and production of high-end defence equipment.
Under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), four projects have been agreed on as “pathfinder projects”, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said. She identified them as next generation Raven Minis UAVs, roll-on and roll-off kits for
C-130, mobile electric hybrid power source and Uniform Integrated Protection Ense-mble Increment 2.
Obama welcomed the development and said renewal of the defence pact will guide the bilateral defence cooperation for next ten years. “We agreed to deepen our defence and security cooperation.... And in a major step forward for our relationship, defence technology and trade initiative will allow us to jointly develop and produce defence technologies,” he said.
Obama added that both Modi and he have also agreed to a “new vision for Asia Pacific”. “We are doing together more to advance our shared security and prosperity in this critical region,” he said.
The first framework agreement, which expires this year, was signed in the US in 2005 by the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart in the previous George W Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld.
The foreign secretary said both countries have also “agreed on a working group to explore aircraft carrier technology, sharing, design and also development of jet engine technology”.
Asked for more details, Indian Ambassador to US S Jaishankar said all four projects involve joint development and joint production.
“Two of these are with American companies. Two of them with US governments. They have to work out the modalities because they just had a DTTI working group meeting before the visit,” he said.
The ambassador noted that the purpose of DTTI is to identify technologies which is unique and which is viable to produce. He said the identified projects are “called pathfinders projects because experiences of this will guide us on how we take this forward”.
On the working group for jet engines, he said both sides had a discussion under DTTI and have decided “to explore the development of jet engines in India”.
He said it was much broader than the Kaveri jet engine that India is already working on.
Replying to a query about the difference between the existing defence framework and the new one, he said India has “negotiated a new” agreement for the next ten years.
“DTTI is an initiative which is within the defence framework. It is a new initiative. It was announced a few years ago but it has really become operational now. The big change is that we have taken that big step towards operationalising an initiative and this case specifically identifying projects and agreeing on important areas where we will have working groups,” he said.
The significant project under DTTI is the plans for joint development and production of next generation Raven Mini UAVs, a device which the Indian Army was eyeing. If the joint manufacturing of the UAV happens, then India would be able to get a slice of the multi-billion order book for the world’s most advanced hand-launched drone.
The drone proved to be a great success for the American forces in Afghanistan as it gives air observations up to a distance of 10 kilometres, which makes it possible to increase situational awareness.