Trump’s Visit Extends the Scope of the US-India Strategic Partnership

3 March 2020 Balaji Chandramohan, FDI Visiting Fellow

Background

US President Donald Trump’s two-day state visit to India has expanded the scope of the New Delhi-Washington strategic calculus and their trade relations.

The two sides’ joint statement highlighted the defence deals that they signed, which are worth around US$3 billion ($4.5 billion), which was signed earlier as a part of the state visit.

Comment

The US, furthermore, offered to assist India in its quest to create a carrier task group and offered it Lockheed-Martin F-21 fighter aircraft (a variant of the F-16) as well as the F/A-18 Super Hornet to aid the Indian aircraft carrier programme and its power-projection capabilities.

The US agreed to sell additional Boeing P8 I maritime patrol aircraft to the Indian Navy, which will add to its surveillance and effective anti-submarine warfare capabilities in the wider Indo-Pacific region.

The Indian Navy could acquire 127-mm calibre ship-mounted guns from the US under a government deal. The US Congress has approved the procurement of 13 of these for an estimated US$1 billion ($1.5 billion).

The next step in India’s naval aviation project could be the induction of another aircraft carrier, the INS Vishaal, which will be equipped with the EMALS electromagnetic catapult system used on the USS Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers. This will be part of the larger India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) which was signed in 2012.

Unlike the other two Indian aircraft carriers, the Vishaal will be able to launch and recover heavy strike aircraft and early warning planes, such as the E-2 Hawkeye.

The Vishaal, which is scheduled to be added to the Indian Navy in 2023, will incorporate US technology, helping India’s power-projection capacities in the wider Indo-Pacific. The joint-statement also noted that India’s military purchases from the US include 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters at a cost of US$2.6 billion ($4 billion). Another contract to acquire six AH-64E Apache helicopters for US$800 million ($1.3 billion) was also signed.

India and the US will also fast-track the Basic Exchange and Co-operation Agreement (BECA), thereby strengthening the other two agreements that were signed previously, the Logistics Exchange Agreement and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement.

Those two foundational agreements will fortify the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which India and the US signed in 2002 while the NDA government was in office.

The US will also support India’s expanding Air-Defence Weapons System.

The two countries will also increase the range and scope of the Quad, Malabar and Tiger Triumph military exercises, thereby developing the necessary interoperability.

They will increase their strategic co-operation through the Military Co-operation Group meetings, the senior-most military dialogue, as agreed upon at the 2+2 US-India Ministerial Dialogue.

India’s re-structuring of its military command will influence its relationship with the US and its allies.

The US has already supplied more than US$18 billion ($27.4 billion) worth of weapons and planes to India over the past 12 years and plans to sell equipment worth a further US$7.50 billion ($11.4 billion), thereby deepening the alliance.

Earlier, the US State Department had approved India’s request to buy an Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS), which comprises five AN/MPQ-64Fl Sentinel radar systems; 118 AMRAAM AIM-120C-7/C-8 missiles; three AMRAAM Guidance Sections; four AMRAAM Control Sections; and 134 Stinger FIM-92L missiles.

In conclusion, President Trump’s state visit to India will strengthen the bilateral relationship and assist in forming a Global Strategic Partnership to protect the rule-based international order.

Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.

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