“India has done enough to simplify its defence procurement and other norms. It is time for US Government and Industry to reciprocate. It is easy to blame Indian bureaucracy but in some cases, US bureaucracy is much worse.’’
Manohar Parrikar, Indian Defence Minister in Washington
This was possibly one of the first occasions when a visiting dignitary has taken a dig at the US. But when Manohar Parrikar did it in Washington, the entire room erupted in either agreement or a silent applause. Under Secretary Frank Kendall seemed a little perturbed, with the RM having touched a topic that has remained one of the most important issue for those who deal with US on defence cooperation. He was quick to add that US can add a lot of value to Indian industry and laid down the path ahead, especially for indigenous manufacturing.
Parrikar went on to point out that enough has been done to facilitate ease of doing business in India. He urged the US defence industry to come forward in collaborating with Indian companies, he stressed upon the fact that Indian industry today is capable of maintaining highest standards and could easily become an important part of the Global Supply Chain of American defence companies.
Being part of the CII Mission to United States accompanying the Raksha Mantri, I had the opportunity to observe firsthand the decision making process of the US administration. Some changes in the process and attitude are visible and it is clear that the US bureaucracy is waking up to the new paradigm of deeper Indo-US relationship, largely due to their faith in the abilities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At meetings with the State Department or the National Security Council, various issues concerning technology transfer were discussed in the context of India’s ties with Russia and USA’s ties with Pakistan. The Indian industry delegation, however, insisted that India’s record in non-proliferation is absolutely clean and the US must take cognizance of this fact. However, most US officials admitted that in the last one year, their outlook and perception of India has changed for the better. They see reforms coming fast enough to take the cooperation to the next level.
CII’s Defence Industry Mission was led by Mr Sukaran Singh, CEO & Managing Director, TATA Advanced Systems & Co-Chair CII National Committee on Defence. The Mission included top/senior leadership of almost every big company in the business of defence equipment production in India.
The mission highlighted tremendous potential for engagement between US and India. In addition, it conveyed to stakeholders in the US the definitive commitment of the Indian Industry towards this relationship and to find ways to chart a bold new path for deepening US-India partnership. The mission members also participated in the joint industry event organized by CII, USIBC & FICCI featuring Mr Parrikar, on December 9 in Washington DC.
The mission members met Secretary William Cohen, Chairman & CEO, The Cohen Group, Mr Arun Kumar, Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and Assistant Secretary for Global Markets, U.S. Department of Commerce, Mr Mathew Borman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Bureau of Industry & Security; Mr Charles Rivkin, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, US Department of State, Mr Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asian Affairs, National Security Council and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
The mission members also visited the Boeing, Honeywell and Lockheed Martin facilities to better understand and experience the cutting edge technology these companies pioneer, and to brainstorm ways and means to deepen industry to industry collaborations. They also had round-table interactions with members of US – India Defence Council as well as the Heritage Foundation.
The delegation had a brief meeting with Defence Minister Parrikar before he started his official meetings in Washington. During the meeting, CII mission members apprised him of some of the issues they would want the minister to consider taking up during his US visit. Easing norms on transfer of technology, larger role for Indian companies in the global supply chain, speedy approvals were some of the issues highlighted for Minister’s attention.
During the trip, Minister Parrikar also stressed on the major reforms that have been brought in India in the Defence sector and urged the Government of United States and the industry to reciprocate. He stressed that greater cooperation in Defence Sector is a win-win situation for both countries.
Discussions with the Minister and Government officials were on issues and concerns of the industry from both sides. However, industry representatives from both sides have expressed satisfaction over the outcome of their meetings. Indian industry is upbeat about Make in India and keenly looking forward to more inflow of US investment and technology into India. More technology and manufacturing tie ups are likely to come up in the near future.
Indian industry members were also of the opinion that India should now also deliberate on what Indian defence companies can offer to US companies rather than just seeking investment and technology from their side. Joint Ventures like Tata-Lockheed or Mahindra Telephonics are a testimony to the fact that Indian manufacturing companies have come of age too and are ready to become an integral part of Global Supply Chain of top US defence companies.
Giriraj Pai Vernekar The author is Deputy Director, Defence, Aerospace & Security in CII
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are strictly personal and do not reflect the CII’s position