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India, US may sign a pact on defence technology sharing at 2+2 Washington meet

It is expected that the two sides will sign the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that will enable transfer of technology by a US firm to its Indian partners in the private sector. While several US companies, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are already working on defence products with Indian partners — mostly to meet offset obligations.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 07, 2019, 10.27 AM IST
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The deal will make way for participation of aviation majors in contest to manufacture and supply 114 jets to Air Force
NEW DELHI: India and the US are heading in the right direction on the defence technology-sharing pact. The two countries are expected to sign a deal at the upcoming 2+2 dialogue in Washington on December 19. The deal will make way for the participation of aviation majors in the contest to manufacture and supply 114 combat jets to the Indian Air Force.

A key Indo-US industry body feels that the best way to go ahead with procurement — valued at about $20 billion — is through a government-to-government deal to enable ‘Make in India’ and technology-sharing.

Sources told ET that the upcoming dialogue, being led by defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar, will focus on renewed efforts to take forward the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) to include drone warfare, light-weight arms and virtual augmented reality.

It is expected that the two sides will sign the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that will enable transfer of technology by a US firm to its Indian partners in the private sector. While several US companies, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are already working on defence products with Indian partners — mostly to meet offset obligations — the projects are primarily of the ‘build to print’ kind.

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The ISA, sources said, would enable transfer of key high-end technology pieces regulated under the US law and would have safeguards to ensure that the information is protected under Indian law. “Basically, an ISA lets the US industry share sensitive US information and technology with Indian companies. Used effectively, it enables India to jump start its indigenous defence industry through much more sophisticated partnerships with the US industry,” US-India Strategic Partnership Forum senior advisor Vikram J Singh told ET.

The industry forum shares the perspective of several global aviation majors that the complex plan to build 114 fighter jets after a selection process would be best served under a government-togovernment deal that would assure transfer of technology.

“FMS, which is the governmentto-government system for the United States, is probably the only way for this deal to work with a US firm. FMS is also desirable — there have been no incidents of corruption or scandal in billions of dollars of FMS transactions with India. Integrating into a global f leet of thousands of aircraft would do more to boost India’s defence industry than almost anything else,” Singh said.

As reported by ET, India and the US are unlikely to sign a key foundational defence agreement for mutual access to high accuracy geospatial maps as technical issues on sharing of data have still not been worked out. The pact will however come up for discussion during the meeting. Talks will also focus on revitalising the DTTI initiative that has little to show for in terms of projects but is currently being reworked. As reported by ET, a DTTI plan to share technology for building fighter jet engines has been ‘suspended’ but new areas of cooperation are being identified.
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