A new high in Indo-US strategic partnership
The US today recognises India as 'a major defence partner'. This status gives India access to the military technology available so far only to the US' closest allies.
The arrival of the US Navy Ship Charles Drew for carrying out its repairs and allied services at the Kattupalli Shipyard, Chennai, on August 7 reflects a new high in the Indo-US strategic partnership.
Observers say the development shows the kind of mutual trust India and the United States have developed in each other in the post-cold war landscape. The New Delhi-Washington strategic partnership has expanded very fast over the years.
In April, at the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin affirmed their intention to explore utilising Indian shipyards for the repairs and maintenance of ships of the US Maritime Sealift Command in their mid-voyage. Subsequently, the US Command undertook rigorous evaluation of select shipyards in India and awarded a contract to the Kattupalli Shipyard.
The arrival of the US Navy ship for repair in India is a sign of maturity the Indian ship building industry has attained over the years. Today there are six major shipyards in the country. They have a turnover of nearly $2 billion. The capabilities of these shipyards in the global ship repairing market have increased immensely.
India today is making ships not only for its own requirements. The country has its own design house capable of making all kinds of state-of-the-art ships. In June this year, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh handed over 12 High Speed Guard Boats to Vietnam.
In the next two to three years, India is likely to see the first large size marine diesel engine being designed and developed in the country. It has been decided to develop the diesel marine engine under the 'make-one' procedure. Under this scheme, the government provides 70% assistance to the project cost for design and development of the engine.
Indo-US defence ties have been on an upward trajectory, particularly since our former Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao introduced economic reforms in the country. The US today recognises India as "a major defence partner." It treats India on par with NATO-member countries. This status gives India access to the military technology available so far only to the US' closest allies. The result of this has been very remarkable. In 2021, the Indo-US defence trade touched around $20 billion.
In the recent years, India and the United States have come to ink several key agreements, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA).
(Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, New York)
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