New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) With their strategic proximity growing in recent years, the US Tuesday pitched for more military sales to India and improved sharing of defence technologies.
'On the issue of defence technologies, the United States expects to continue developing and selling the world's most competitive products. We view these sales as important on their own terms, but also as a means to facilitate the work that the Indian and American militaries can do together -- whether patrolling the seas or providing relief to the victims of natural disasters,' US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is on a three-day visit to India, said here.
She was addressing a joint press conference with her counterpart S.M. Krishna after they held their second strategic dialogue here.
The joint statement issued by the two sides after the talks also spoke on the issue of US military sales and sharing of defence technologies with India.
'The two sides noted India's defence orders from U.S. companies have reached a cumulative value of over $8 billion in the last decade. The two sides noted that these sales reflect strengthened cooperation. Both sides also affirmed their desire to strengthen cooperation through technology transfer, and joint research, development, and production of defence items,' it said.
This was also a clear indication that the US had put behind it the disappointment of two American arms majors - Boeing and Lockheed Martin - losing out in the race for a $10.4 billion Indian Air Force order for 126 combat jets.
India has in the last decade bought eight Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for $2.1 billion and is expected to order four more of these planes for its navy. It has also bought six C-130J Super Hercules transporters for $1.2 billion and 10 C-17 heavy lift cargo planes for $4.1 billion along with their weapon suites. This apart it has bought a troop carrier, renamed INS Jalashwa, for amphibious operations and will soon be placing an order for 140 M777 artillery guns.
US firms are also in competition for India's requirement of 22 attack helicopters 15 heavylift cargo helicopters.
However, the sticking point in the military sales is the restriction on the supply of high-end systems, as India is yet to sign agreements such as the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
India is also not satisfied with the progress made by the US in lifting sanctions on its defence and space organisations by removing them from the restrictive entity list, a move that was announced by US President Barack Obama during his visit last November.
However, Clinton said the two sides had 'made progress' on matters of security cooperation during this round of strategic dialogue, which was initiated last year. 'But we can do more to strengthen the security of our nations and this region as a whole,' she said.
The secretary noted that maritime security was also 'a major concern, as we seek to protect sea lanes, combat piracy, and defend freedom of navigation' and applauded India's leadership in fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean region, including its decision last week to chair the 2012 plenary of the piracy contact group operating off the Somalia coast.
The two nations also agreed to continue consultations on maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean region in existing forums such as the defence policy group and its appropriate sub-groups. They also agreed to exchange views on promoting regional security architecture that enhances maritime security in the Indian Ocean
The joint statement noted that India and the US welcomed the progress in bilateral defence cooperation and that their defence policy group, which had met in March, would meet in early 2012.
'They noted the progress in defence bilateral exchanges, exercises, capacity building, information sharing, including in the areas of counter-narcotics, counter-piracy, maritime safety and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.