R E G I O N: US, India making military deal amid better relations
WASHINGTON: India’s chief of naval staff Admiral Arun Prakash, who is on a US visit, discussed purchase of American equipment and systems as part of stepped up defence cooperation, it was announced on Wednesday.
Details of the purchase were not announced but New Delhi had said this week that a contract was likely to be signed for the purchase of submarine rescue vehicles.
India is also reportedly working out a deal for the purchase of 10 retrofitted Lockheed Martin P3C Orion long-range naval maritime spy aircraft to plug gaps in reconnaissance capability.
Prakash, on a 10-day visit to the United States since March 19, held talks with top defence officials “which focused on ways to further India-US naval cooperation including joint exercises and acquisition of US equipment and systems for the Indian Navy,” the Indian embassy said in a statement.
“Both sides reiterated their determination to strengthen all aspects of defence cooperation in the context of the transformed India-US relationship,” it said.
“The two sides reaffirmed that the bilateral relationship has been on a steadily ascendant trajectory in recent years and has gained greater strategic content,” the embassy said.
India’s vice chief of naval staff Yashwant Prasad told reporters in New Delhi this week that the two countries were in intense negotiations and likely to sign a contract for US cover for Indian submarines in distress and for the purchase of submarine rescue vehicles by the year end. India and the United States had almost finalised a contract for the US navy to rescue Indian submarines in distress when US sanctions following New Delhi’s nuclear tests in 1998 derailed the deal, Prasad had said. The supply of submarine rescue vehicles along with flying kits and P3C Orions would be the second largest defence deal between the two countries in recent years, news reports have said.
Military relations between India and the United States, on opposite sides during the Cold War, have thawed in recent years with both nations holding a series of joint defence exercises over the last 18 months.
India played a key back-up role in US-led relief efforts following the December 26 tsunami disaster that hit a dozen countries along the Indian Ocean and left more than 270,000 dead.
“The US side welcomed the excellent cooperation between the two countries in organising relief operations during the recent tsunami disaster and expressed admiration for the speed and scale on which India deployed its naval and air assets in this effort,” the statement said.
Admiral Prakash’s itinerary includes visits to US Navy bases and facilities at Norfolk, Newport, Colorado Springs, Seattle and Hawaii. At Newport, the naval chief will address students and faculty of the Naval War College on current maritime issues including the security environment in the Indian Ocean region and the role played by the Indian Navy. afp