US Defence Secretary Ash Carter (Centre) walks with Defence Minister Manohar Parikar after his ceremonial reception in New Delhi, on June 3. (Reuters)
India and the United States, who signed a new framework agreement
for closer cooperation in defence on Wednesday, have sealed a deal to jointly develop protective gear for soldiers against biological and chemical warfare, and another on building generators, defence officials said on Wednesday.
The projects were cleared as US Defense Secretary Ash Carter held talks with Indian leaders to expand security ties between the countries.
The United States has become one of the top sources of weapons for the Indian military, upstaging Russia in recent years, and now, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make-in-India" programme, has offered joint development and production of military technologies.
While the two projects approved are modest in scale, India and the United States are also exploring collaboration at the higher end of technology, Dr Carter told reporters. "We have big ambitions, and jet engines, aircraft carrier technology are big projects that we're working very hard on," he said.
Both the project on protective clothing for soldiers as well as developing the next generation power source for the battlefield will each have $1 million in funding shared equally by the two sides, a US defence official said.
The other two projects under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative that Dr Carter himself launched before his elevation as defense secretary relate to Raven mini-UAVs and surveillance modules for the C-130J military transport plane.
India is also eyeing US aircraft launch technology for a carrier it plans to build to replace an ageing British warship. The two sides have set up a working group to explore cooperation and the defence official said military officials will meet later this month in the United States.
On Wednesday, the two countries also signed a new framework agreement for closer cooperation in defence - Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Dr Carter signed the agreement.
Dr Carter also met Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
PM Modi expressed hope that US companies, including those in the defence manufacturing sector, would actively participate in the 'Make in India' initiative and set up manufacturing units in India with transfer of technology and link to the global supply chain.
Dr Carter conveyed that India was an important strategic partner for the US and the US policy of rebalance in Asia-Pacific and complimented India's "Act East" Policy.
The defence framework agreement focuses on taking "appropriate measures to enhance India's defence capability". The 10-year defence framework agreement was renewed during the visit of US President Barack Obama in January.
The first framework agreement, which expires this year, was signed in the US in 2005 by the then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and his then US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld.