With Washington reluctant to open up on transfer of high end technology from its armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program, India has found a midway to take discussions forward during the recent visit of a delegation led by defence minister Manohar Parrikar to the US.
While a reconnaissance version of the Predator UAV is on offer to the Indian Navy for its requirements, India has been keener on the armed variant but has not met with equal enthusiasm on the other side.
Sources have told us that India made a renewed pitch for the Predator during the visit after its entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). “We have asked for detailed technical specifications of the Predator and have said that the payload (weapons package) can be discussed at a later stage,” a source aware of the Indo-US talks told us.
India is now likely to get technical specifications and details of the ‘hard points’, on which the weapons are mounted. Officials said that significant talks were made during the visit on the possibility of manufacturing a US-origin fighter jet in India to meet requirements of the Air Force that are expected to exceed 100 planes.
Both the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F 16 block 70 are on offer to India with technology transfer. India,however, has also set its eyes on high-end technology like the Predator drone that the US deploys frequently on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Such an acquisition will bolster India’s offensive options along some of its porous borders.
Sources also told us that while several other technology sharing proposals were discussed at meetings in Washington, it was evident that progress on the aircraft carrier working group have slowed down. From the Indian side, the project is not on the priority list due to the expenses involved and from Washington’s side there is no intention yet of offering nuclear power plant technology that will be needed for a warship of that size.
The US is also keen on India signing two additional military pacts – the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)-that are considered essential for technology exchange.