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Defense Minister AK Antony in Washington, talks business

Defense Minister AK Antony in Washington, talks business

“We think we have the finest military hardware in the world, and if India is upgrading its defence capabilities, they should buy American,” P.J. Crowley, U.S. State Department spokesman, said following Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony’s meeting with Hillary Clinton. “Our understanding is that some of those decisions are coming up fairly soon.”

Secretary Clinton greets Minister Antony. Indian Ambassador Shankar looks on
Secretary Clinton greets Minister Antony. Indian Ambassador Shankar looks on

The selection of one of the US fighter jet bids would help cement a growing alignment of two of the world’s largest democracies, a political bond that Mr Obama will stress heavily on his first visit  to India in November. Two of America’s largest defense contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing are among six foreign companies that India is evaluating, and winning the work would create or save thousands of U.S.  jobs. The project for 126 aircraft (the so-called MMRCA or Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft)  – worth up to $11 billion  – is the world’s largest pending military hardware deal.

Separately US and Indian officials have been negotiating an agreement that would see New Delhi buy ten C-17 Globemaster transport planes, also manufactured by Boeing in Long Beach, California at the former Dougla Aircraft Company facility. The deal, which is in its final stages and worth an estimated two to five billion dollars, could be signed in November. Boeing has already won a $2.1 billion order to supply India’s Navy with the P-8i Orion surveillance aircraft.

In the meantime, New Delhi is hoping to convince the U.S. to remove controls on defense exports to India, for long a major drag on constantly improving ties between the two countries. “We want an early solution to that (export control restrictions),”  Minister Antony told reporters ahead of his talks here. The issue has been top of the agenda for India — figuring prominently in recent talks between the two countries. It was raised during Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s talks in the U.S. capital earlier in the summer. (The Foreign Secretary is a bureaucratic position in India, usually filled by an officer of the Indian Foreign Service or Indian Administrative Service and is not the equivalent of Secretary of State).

Antony was in Washington in advance of President Obama’s first visit to India, due in November, right after the U.S. mid-term elections.

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