Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday exhorted American firms to carry out joint research and co-development of military hardware in India, saying the engagement should move beyond the traditional buyer-seller relationship. In an address at the American Chamber of Commerce in India, he also said that India and the US have a growing convergence of strategic interests and both sides seek a resilient and rules-based international order that safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
Singh said the recent India-US ‘2+2’ dialogue and fruitful conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden have created the ground for a more ambitious and strategic engagement between the two sides. “Of late, some US companies have expanded their local presence in partnership with Indian industry to achieve our aim of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’. We believe this is just a beginning,” Singh said.
“With increasing business, we aspire for increased investments by US companies in India. Making full use of the Industrial Security Agreement, we need to facilitate collaboration and indigenisation of defence technology and boost the participation of US and Indian companies in each other’s defence supply chains,” he added. The defence minister said American companies are welcome to establish manufacturing facilities in India and exhorted them to take advantage of the policy initiatives of the Narendra Modi government to promote defence manufacturing.
Singh described the recently-held India-US ‘2+2’ ministerial dialogue in Washington as “positive and fruitful”, saying the defence sector is a strong and growing pillar of the bilateral relationship. He emphasised the need to move from a buyer-seller relationship to one of the partner nations, noting that India and the US are uniquely poised to leverage each other’s strengths for a mutually beneficial and bright future.
Singh said both India and the US share a common vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. “We have a growing convergence of strategic interests as both countries seek a resilient, rules-based international order, that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds democratic values and promotes peace and prosperity for all,” he said.
“The India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is of critical importance for international peace, stability and prosperity,” he said. The defence minister also described the India-US economic engagement as one of the defining business relationships of the 21st century and that there has been a rebound in bilateral trade over the last year, surpassing USD 113 billion in goods.
“In the context of this increasing trade, the India-US Trade Policy Forum discussions to expand bilateral trade, remove market access barriers and improve ease of business become increasingly important,” he said. Singh said the “defence pillar” of the US-India relationship is strong and growing.
“It is built on foundational bilateral agreements, military to military engagements, cooperation in the enhancement of defence capabilities and now a new emphasis on co-development and co-production,” he said. The India-US ‘2+2’ dialogue had taken place in Washington on April 11. Defence Minister Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held the dialogue with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony J Blinken.
Ahead of the dialogue on that day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting during which the crisis in Ukraine figured prominently. “As we move forward to strengthen our relationship, I would like to emphasise the need to move from a buyer-seller relationship to one of partner nations and business partners,” Singh said.
“I think, India and the United States are uniquely poised to leverage each other’s strengths for a win-win model in the coming years,” he said.