NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India wants to use state-of-the-art US technology to boost the range and potency of a planned aircraft carrier, defence sources said, a move that would tie their arms programmes closer together and counter China’s military influence in the region.
The proposal, referred to only obliquely in a joint statement at the end of President Barack Obama’s recent visit to New Delhi, is the clearest signal yet that Washington is ready to help India strengthen its navy.
Ashton Carter, Obama’s nominee for defence secretary, said he would take a strong interest in strengthening US-India ties if confirmed, and a “great deal” could be done to expand military and defence technology cooperation.
“India is destined to be a strategic partner of the United States,” Carter told the US Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
Although the aircraft carrier in question would not be ready for at least another decade, such cooperation could act as a balance against China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean.
It would also represent a shift away from India’s traditional reliance on Russia for military hardware, particularly if, as some experts expect, it leads to knock-on orders for US aircraft in the longer term.
After years of neglect, India’s navy is in the midst of accelerated modernisation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.