Senate Armed Services Holds Hearing On F-35 Joint Strike ProgramWASHINGTON: You just met me, and this is crazy, but my address is Ashton.Carter@sd.mil, so email me maybe. That, in essence, was Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter‘s response this morning when asked how US defense firms could get Pentagon help exporting weapons and related products to the notoriously opaque and bureaucratic Indian government, which Washington has been assiduously wooing.

“It is frustrating,” Cart acknowledged this morning at the liberal Center for American Progress. “Those of you who are doing business there, I encourage you to be in touch with us, directly in touch with me,” Carter told the audience. “I’ll work these problems. None of these things is too small.”

“Don’t get frustrated,” he urged industry, after repeatedly emphasizing that “the US and India are destined to be partners” because of their common democratic values. “We have got history on our side,” Carter said, “and what we have to do is remove of some of these picayune obstacles.”

But US keeps making proposals to co-produce or even co-develop weapons systems in India, and the Indians are so far sitting on them, I said skeptically when the floor opened for questions and answers.

Not so, insisted Carter, who was just in New Delhi two weeks ago. “On this trip I put forward quite a large number of them. I’m not prepared to say what they are, because I want my Indian colleagues to have a chance to take look at them.” One proposal he has made public was for the US and India to co-develop the next generation of the Javelin anti-tank missile, but Carter made clear there are many more offers that have flown under the radar.

“It is not true that they turned down proposals,” he continued. “There are a large number of things that they’re sifting through. It is true that there’s a lot of bureaucracy on both sides.” (Especially, he failed to add, on the Indian side).

“Now it’s in India’s court,” Carter said. As for the specific co-production proposals the US made eight months ago — for maritime helicopters, warship cannon, anti-tank mines, and missiles — he said that “I don’t want to get into things that violate their confidence, but I think they are giving very serious consideration to some of the proposals that we have put forward last year. These are things where they have to consider whether they met their military requirements and whether they have the budget to pay for it, so it takes a little time for them to figure that out. But they haven’t turned it down.”

(Note that none of this refutes the proposition that India hasn’t said yes to anything yet. Indeed, given a democracy and a bureaucracy even more cumbersome than ours, New Delhi’s unlikely to give a definite answer any time soon. They still are showing uncertainty about actually signing the contract to buy French Rafale fighters that they officially selected for their air force a year and a half ago).

Carter laid out a host of steps the US government is taking — with himself at the helm — to ease defense trade and technology transfer between the US and India. In the eight short years since the US and India signed their 2005 defense cooperation agreement, he said, there’s been great progress both on arms sales, such as C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft, and on military exercises, such as the annual wargames off the Malabar Islands. Admittedly, this is progress from a very low base, the US having imposed sanctions on India for its 1998 nuclear test that cut arms sales to zero.

The Obama administration is working on an overhaul of the entire export control system, which is painfully slow and occasionally arbitrary. (“The export control system is the most important and serious really boring subject one can possibly talk about,” he said).

But for New Delhi specifically, “we have demonstrated repeatedly that we can release sensitive technologies to India,” Carter said. “Recognizing there will always be some technologies we will keep to ourselves, we changed our culture regarding transfer to India in the Department of Defense from a culture of a presumptive ‘no’ to a culture of a presumptive ‘yes.'”

To help the US-India arms trade, said Carter, Defense, State, and Commerce are working to streamline export control rules, end-use monitoring (i.e. making sure the weapons aren’t resold to bad guys), and developing proposals for co-production and co-development. The US has added India to the so-called “Group of Eight” countries that get special treatment for export licenses under the Strategic Trade Authorization system.

Where once companies doing US-India defense deals had to sign the contract before the government would rule on whether the technology transfers involved were legal — a “Catch-22,” Carter said — the government is now offering legally non-binding “advisory opinions” to companies while they’r still finalizing the contract. The US is also pre-vetting US proposals to compete in Indian competitions even before the New Delhi issues an official request for proposals (RFP). Overall, Carter said, “[we’re] trying to better anticipate Indian requirements and streamlining our licensing processes [to] make us competitive for every sale.”

Finally, the US is providing financial incentives for US researchers seeking Indian partners for science and technology products, Carter said: “This is an approach we’ve only ever taken with the United Kingdom and Australia.”

Meanwhile, as the US government is removing the strings it historically attaches to defense exports, Washington is also lobbying New Delhi to loosen its restrictions on imports, such as local co-production and offset requirements.

“It’s hard work,” Carter summed up, “and you’ve probably glazed your eyes over with some of that export control stuff — it’s incredibly tedious. [But] what keeps us all going… is the destiny that I talked about.”

Comments

  • Don Bacon

    The US-India relationship, from the U.S. perspective, of course has nothing to do with “common democratic values,” which Carter never said, and everything to do with the U.S. desire to use India as a counterweight to China while promoting Indian interests against Pakistan, with the primary motivator being selling stuff and making money.

    This doesn’t work with India because having been an abused pawn of the British for so many years, it doesn’t want to be used by the U.S. now acting as “British Empire #2.” That ‘I’m the big daddy’ line doesn’t work with India. The U.S. has no leverage there, and it hurts.

    These pro-India U.S. shenanigans also don’t help matters with Pakistan, India’s mortal enemy, which takes U.S. money and uses it to support the Taliban killing and maiming Americans in Afghanistan. Carter the deputy U.S. military chief should be more concerned with the lives of American young people that he sends on fruitless missions to Afghanistan and less motivated by profiteering from selling military hardware to India.

    “It’s hard work,” Carter summed up, “and you’ve probably glazed your eyes over with some of that export control stuff — it’s incredibly tedious. [But] what keeps us all going… is the destiny that I talked about.” Well, at least we know now what he does with his time. Just another arms salesman on the government payroll.

    • bridgebuilder78

      One should choose friends carefully, and allies even more judiciously. Hitler’s mistake was allying Germany with the perennially incompetent Italians. India, by the virtue of it being a perpetual weakling, is more of a liability than an asset.

      • ZrinTrinTrin

        Didn’t know US had plans to become Hitler. Good luck.

        India is good without being part of the bloodbaths with the new “Hitler”.

      • Amin King

        You mean the country with the world’s second largest army, fourth largest airforce and fifth largest navy, a nuclear and a space power is a weakling ? India being a large and diverse country has its limitations but to dismiss it as a perpetual weakling is sheer ignorance

      • ssn21seawolf

        @bridgebuilder78.only an ignorant uncivilized Indian could write that Italians are “perennially incompetent” ….. before offend other peoples looks good your. (Fourth World)

  • Sejarah Melayu

    The US shutdown is good news to all the people of the world, except for the
    Americans & its Zionism allies. The plan to make war in Syria had to be
    abandoned, as now the US doesn’t have the money to even pay for its jet fuel
    for its fighter planes. Almost all airborne training except for mission in
    Afghanistan had to be shelved and more than 2/3 of its fighter planes had to
    be grounded. Even some of the airplane technicians had to be furloughed. No
    more war is good for the peaceful co-existance for the people of the world,
    but bad for the American & its Zionism allies. Now they don’t even have the
    money to fly the jets, bomb & kill other people anymore…. ;-).

    So Indians, if you are a peaceful & loving people, don’t let the arrogance & brutal Americans in term of financing, as the Americans can use this money to promote more wars in other parts of the world.

    Stop the war! Stop the bombings! Stop the genocide! Indians, stop buying anything from the Americans!