The United States has urged India to bolster its role as a
global power and force for regional stability, ahead of Prime
Minister Narendra Modi's first visit to Washington since his
election in May.
In a speech wrapping up two days of talks, Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel also played up deepening defence industry
co-operation but did not have any major new arms export deals
"The United States strongly supports India's growing global
influence and military capabilities including its potential
as a security provider from the Indian Ocean to the greater
Pacific," Hagel told an invited audience.
Both Washington and New Delhi share concerns about the
increasing geopolitical assertiveness of China, which from
economic parity with India in 1980 now has an economy that is
four times as large.
India, which has embraced non-alignment since independence in
1947, long relied on the Soviet Union to equip its armed
forces. But, in recent years, it has become the largest buyer
of U.S. weaponry.
Before Hagel's visit, Indian officials played up chances that
orders for U.S. Apache and Chinook helicopters, both made by
Boeing, might advance. No announcement was made on those
deals but officials have said the two sides would deepen
co-operation on missile systems.
Hagel, in a speech at the Observer Research Foundation, a
privately funded think-tank, noted that India had spent $US9
billion on U.S. defence equipment since 2008 - compared to
half a billion dollars before then.
"But we can do more to forge a defence industrial
partnership," he said, calling to "transform our nations'
defence cooperation from simply buying and selling to
co-production, co-development and freer exchange of
India's cabinet has just cleared a proposal to allow 49
percent foreign participation in the defence industry, up
from a current cap of 26 percent, in a bid to boost local
manufacturing and end its chronic dependence on arms imports.
Some Western manufacturers have been lukewarm about the
raising of the cap on defence investment, saying it did not
go far enough for them to transfer technology to India.
LAYING THE GROUND
Hagel's visit, which followed Secretary of State John Kerry's
a week earlier, seeks to lay the ground for Modi's first trip
to the United States, where he will meet President Barack
Obama at the end of September.
The Hindu nationalist was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 over
communal rioting in Gujarat three years earlier where, as
state premier, he faced criticism for failing to prevent the
killing of more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims.
He has denied wrongdoing and was exonerated in an
investigation later ordered by the Supreme Court.
Modi has, in less than three months in power, practised a
'neighbourhood first' foreign policy, inviting regional
leaders to his inauguration and making brief trips to Bhutan
In the weeks ahead, he will engage with India's most
important counterparts - first travelling to Japan, receiving
Chinese President Xi Jinping and then heading to Washington.
"Just as America need not choose between its Asian alliances
and its constructive relationship with China, India need not
choose between closer partnership with America and improved
ties with China," said Hagel, who was due next to visit