When achieving self-reliance in defence is an immediate priority for the government and several measures have been taken to achieve that goal, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made a fresh pitch to American firms on Thursday to carry out joint research and development, co-production of systems, and manufacturing and maintenance of military hardware in the country to tap the opportunities under the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ initiative.
“Recently, some US businesses have partnered with Indian industry to develop their local footprint in order to realise our goal of ‘Make in India, Make for the World.'” While speaking to members of the American Chamber of Commerce in India, he stated, “We feel this is only the beginning.”
“As our business grows, we hope to see more US corporations investing in India.” We need to maximise the benefits of the Industrial Security Agreement by facilitating collaboration and indigenization of defence technologies, as well as increasing the participation of US and Indian enterprises in each other’s defence supply chains.”
In December 2019, the two countries signed ISA to make it easier for their defence sectors to share secret information.
Singh’s push for expanded US involvement in the Indian defence sector comes as New Delhi redoubles its efforts to indigenize weapons and systems, reduce military imports, and gain a foothold in international defence markets.
During the previous two years, India has imposed a phased import restriction on 310 various weapons and systems as part of a reinvigorated campaign for Atmanirbhar Bharat. Over the next five to six years, these weapons and systems will be indigenized in stages.
Even under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, Singh has previously stated that provisions exist that allow foreign corporations to participate, collaborate, form joint ventures, and profit.
Singh’s remarks came as India attempted to strike a balance between Russia and the United States in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, with Washington attempting to wean India away from its reliance on Russian military gear.
Singh stated that the US recognises India and Russia as “natural allies” with strong connections. At the same time, he stated that India would not allow its relations with a third country to jeopardise the United States’ “fundamental national interests.”
Last month, senior US diplomats Donald Lu and Victoria Nuland met with top Indian officials in New Delhi, including MEA Jaishankar, to provide options for the supply of weapons, equipment, and spares to keep the Indian armed forces battle-ready.
“What the United States has proposed is not only achievable, but also desirable if carried out properly. The United States can assist us by not placing sanctions on Russia. It can help with spare parts and maintenance until we are ready to handle it ourselves.
In response to the US offer, former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd) remarked, “They should provide us technology in areas where we are suffering, from small arms to jet engines.”
On Thursday, Singh stated that US corporations had not only contributed to India’s foreign direct investment and employment, but also to its defence exports. According to him, exports to the United States totaled $2.5 billion in the last five years, accounting for 35 percent of overall exports.
He stated that US companies participating in cooperative R&D and industrial engagement with the Indian public and private sectors would be critical to the success of Atmanirbhar Bharat and would boost bilateral relations.
The minister emphasised the importance of transitioning from a buyer-seller relationship to one of partner nations, noting that the two countries were well positioned to capitalise on each other’s capabilities in the future.
“From a strategic standpoint, India and the United States share a commitment to democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law.
As both countries seek a durable, rules-based international system that protects sovereignty and territorial integrity, maintains democratic ideals, and promotes peace and prosperity for all, we are seeing a rising convergence of strategic objectives.”