Why India is Unlikely to Buy Defence Technology From the US

© AP Photo / Gurinder OsanU.S. and Indian flags. File photo
U.S. and Indian flags. File photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.09.2021
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As India attempted to diversify its military purchasing at the beginning of this decade, Washington persuaded New Delhi to launch the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) for co-production and co-development. Despite defence deals with the US worth more than $15 billion over a decade, the DTTI has failed to meet its objective.
India and the US have ended their stoical silence regarding their Defense Technology and Trade Initiative by signing an agreement to cooperate in developing Air-Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (ALUAV) last week. The Indian defence ministry referred to it as a new step in its expansion of bilateral defence and military cooperation.
“The Project Agreement (PA), as revealed to the press, is too general in nature: to develop an air launched UAV. What kind of an ALUAV? Would it be launched from a C-130 or would it be launched from a fighter aircraft, perhaps even a drone? What would the UAV be capable of – electronic warfare, reconnaissance or loitering munitions type strike?” asked Vijainder Kumar Thakur, former squadron leader in the Indian Air Force and defence analyst, in conversation with Sputnik.
Experts say that the technical challenges associated with ALUAV development would depend on the type of the launch platform and the mission objectives.
“Keeping in mind how the technical challenges would vary with the nature of the ALUAV, it could take years for the project agreement to be fully defined. Perhaps it will never be fully defined, as has been the case with past DTTI proposals,” Thakur underscored.
Since the creation of DTTI a decade ago, at least 40 defence technologies - including next-generation Raven Mini UAVs, protector kits against chemical, biological and nuclear fallout - were offered by the US but most of them were rejected by India as it considered the technologies obsolete.
In 2019, the two countries announced suspension of their collaboration on jet engine technology, which was to be used on future indigenous fighter aircraft, because of Washington's reluctance to transfer technology and export controls. A crucial aspect of defence cooperation with the US involves the signing of four foundational agreements, and India is signatory to all of them.

“The US is not known to share technology even with its closest NATO allies. One reason being that while defence technology in the US is often developed with government funding, production technology always remains privately owned. The foundational agreements that India has signed with the US, cover use of technology, not sharing of manufacturing technology”.

Vijainder K Thakur - Sputnik International
Vijainder K Thakur
Defence Analyst
In 2019, the two countries tried to restructure the initiative by signing a ‘Statement of Intent’ with respect to key deliverables in the near, medium and long term.
“Whereas DTTI has been an ongoing process, both sides are now poised actually to achieve tangible outcomes,” a statement issued by the Indian defence ministry on 24 October 2019 read.
It took almost two years to announce this project agreement on air-launched UAVs, but is it tangible?
“I believe that DTTI is largely a carrot that the US uses with the CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) stick to moderate India's expectations from its strategic partnership with the US,” Thakur said.
US officials, time and again, have been warning India of action under CAATSA over its S-400 deal with Russia. However, the Narendra Modi government has decided to go ahead with the deal.
In this Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 file photo, a truck carrying parts of the S-400 air defense systems, exits a Russian transport aircraft after landing at Murted military airport outside Ankara, Turkey. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.03.2021
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The air force veteran also acknowledged that the main purpose of signing of the project agreement for ALUAV is more about positioning against China.
“China is inexorably becoming the dominant power in the Indo-Pacific. The US has a powerful Navy but it cannot contain China without posing an overland threat to China, something it cannot do without placing boots on the ground in close proximity to China. India's land dispute with China enables the US to pose a proxy land threat and hence the strategic partnership,” Thakur explained.
Meanwhile, the US had offered its own air missile defence system and a fighter jet programme to India under different projects.
“The US have offered what they want India to take. However, the US has not made it clear whether they are willing to transfer those technologies which the Indian Defense Ministry is requesting for. This is the biggest question. Secondly, India will have to pay a high cost for the technology. Are we ready to pay considering the limited defence budget," Amit Cowshish, a former Financial Advisor (Acquisition), India’s Ministry of Defence told Sputnik.
Nevertheless, the two countries are hopeful of tangible results in the future if officials of the four working groups constituted under the DTTI keep working in this direction.
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