US is a dependable defense supplier for India: Pentagon

Washington, Jan 20: With India going for a mammoth multi-billion military modernisation programme, the US, which had lost out on the USD 10 billion MRCA fighter jet deal, says it will be a dependable defense supplier to New Delhi with more cooperative research and development.

"I think everyone believes now that the US is and will continue to be a positive defense supplier that is dependable in the future. I think that's where we are working from," the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Robert Scher, told PTI in an interview.

"You have to be impressed on how much progress we have been able to make and I firmly believe that as the government of India and the military sees that we are dependable defense suppliers and that our equipment is the best technology in the world, we will see even more defense trade and some more cooperative research and development," Scher said responding to questions on American defense sales to India.

Though the sales has grown significantly in less than a decade, there is still apprehension in some quarters in India that the US cannot be considered as a dependable.

Scher, however, sought to disagree with such an assessment arguing, "If you look at the increase in the defense trade between the US and India and if you look at the major items that India has already purchased or is in the process of procuring from the US, it is hard for me to imagine that there is anything other than a clear positive trajectory in the US India defense ties."

Scher said the US beleives that defence sales are important in terms of further allowing both militaries to understand each other, work together and have a common approach to some of the world's biggest problem.

"It builds a people to people relationship when you have the same equipment, when you have the same problems, same widgets that you need to buy.

"So we see defense sale as critically important part of our bilateral defense to defense relationship. That is not to say that everything rests on defense sales. But we do think, this helps our forces knit closely together, helps us understand each other better and helps us work together when we so choose," Scher said.

However, Scher underscored that the India-US defense ties is not dependent on sale and purchase of equipment from India.

It is understandable for the US, if India decides to procure things from other sources, he said.

Asked if strains in the relationship crop up if some big defense sales does not go through, he said, "In the end no. We are going to be ok with our partners purchasing some equipment from us and some from others."

He added, "We believe we have the most technologically advanced equipment available. And we think that based on the merits, the Indian system would see that and would continue to procure more and more.

"But that's a decision for the government of India. We continue to be able to work and we will continue to work with India regardless of the type of equipment that they purchase and where they purchase from," the Pentagon official said.


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