India and US sign 2015 Defence Framework Agreement

During the Narendra Modi- Barack Obama Summit on January 25, 2015, India and the United States had agreed to renew the 10-year Defence Framework Agreement that had been signed in June 2005. The renewed agreement was signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter in New Delhi on June 3, 2015. 
According to the joint statement issued after the meeting, “The new Framework agreement provides avenues for high level strategic discussions, continued exchanges between armed forces of both countries, and strengthening of defence capabilities.” The agreement has the potential to transform the defence cooperation component of the India-US strategic partnership if hi-tech weapons and defence equipment are provided to India with transfer of technology (ToT).  
During the January Summit meeting, the two sides had agreed to enhance mutual trade and work towards the removal of barriers to investment. They had also approved greater cooperation in the fields of higher education, science and technology, ICT, space, renewable energy, health, climate change, food security, development of capital markets and smart cities and people to people contacts, among a host of other areas of mutual interest.
However, it was in the field of security and defence cooperation that the Summit accomplished the most significant forward movement. The 15-year old strategic partnership was upgraded to the status of a global partnership, giving India a larger role in international affairs. Substantial progress was made in removing the remaining hurdles in the operationalisation of the civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement. The US had stated its intention to work with India to ensure that it is free to acquire civil nuclear technology and nuclear fuel and to support India’s membership of the NSG, the MTCR, the Wassenaar arrangement and the Australia Group. 
The “India-US Delhi Declaration of Friendship”, one of the three joint statements issued after the meeting, was a step “towards shaping international security, regional and global peace, prosperity and stability.” As part of this declaration, the two countries agreed to hold regular Summits with increased periodicity; elevate the Strategic Dialogue to a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue; establish secure hotlines between the two heads of government and their NSAs; cooperate to develop joint ventures on strategically significant projects; build meaningful security and effective counter-terrorism cooperation; hold regional and multilateral consultations; and, leverage the talents and strengths of the people of India and the US to enhance sustainable, inclusive development around the globe.
Another significant agreement that will have a lasting impact on peace and stability and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region was the “India-US Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region”. This agreement will promote regional economic integration. It will help to safeguard maritime security and the freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the region. As a telling rejoinder to recent Chinese military assertiveness, the vision statement noted that the two countries will work together to ensure security “especially in the South China Sea.” The two countries will seek multilateral opportunities to build capacities for long-term peace and prosperity in the region. The US agreed to strengthen the East Asia Summit and welcomed India's interest in joining the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as a growing economy.
A total of 17 defence technology projects that had been initially offered under the rubric of the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) launched in September 2013. At that time Carter, then Assistant Secretary, had said, "We changed our mind-set around technology transfer to India in the Department of Defence from a culture of presumptive no to one of presumptive yes." Of the 17 projects, four projects were shortlisted for joint development and co-production. These “pathfinder” projects included the next generation Raven hand-launched, 10-km range mini UAV for battlefield surveillance, the development of a roll on-roll off (RoRo) intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) package for the C-130J aircraft acquired by India from the US for its Special Forces, mobile electric hybrid power engine and an integrated kit for the protection of soldiers while operating in a chemical and biological warfare environment. 
While none of the four projects offered genuinely futuristic technology, the original intention of the DTTI was to work together on technologies that are “unique and viable to produce.” Defence Secretary Carter and Defence Minister Parrikar have now agreed to jointly develop Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources and the Next Generation Protective Ensembles for NBC protection. They also agreed to “expedite discussions to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction” as part of the Indian PM’s drive to ‘make in India’.
India has a low defence technology base and welcomes collaboration in the development of future weapons platforms and other defence equipment like radars, target seekers and navigation systems. The two projects accepted for joint development are a good beginning as these joint ventures will provide invaluable experience for the establishment of public-private partnerships for the co-development of defence equipment.
Further discussions for the implementation of the renewed Defence Framework Agreement should explore ways to incorporate military officers from both sides into the high-level Defense Policy Group and the annual Strategic Dialogue; formalise information sharing; bring leaders from the US Pacific Command and Indian regional commands into bilateral defence discussions; and, develop a framework for prioritising bilateral and multilateral exercise engagements. Bilateral exchanges on defence strategy and defence transformation should also be extended to young Parliamentarians and scholars in strategic and security studies think tanks.

Assessment of Recent Achievements
The most notable achievements of recent summit meetings have been efforts aimed at enhanced cooperation in the field of defence trade and technology. For several decades, India’s procurement of weapons platforms and other defence equipment had remained mired in disadvantageous buyer-seller, patron-client relationships like that with the erstwhile Soviet Union and Russia. While India has been manufacturing Russian fighter aircraft and tanks under license, the Russians never actually transferred weapons technology to India. 
The country has now diversified its acquisition sources beyond Russia to Western countries and Israel. From the US, India has purchased weapons platforms and other items of defence equipment worth around USD 10 billion over the last five years. Major procurements have included the troop carrier ship INS Jalashva (USS Trenton), six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for India’s Special Forces, ten C-17 Globemaster heavy lift transport aircraft, 12 Boeing P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and 12 AN-TPQ37 Weapon Locating Radars, which was the first purchase under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. Another six C-130J and seven C-17 aircraft are expected to be purchased over the next few years. Also in the acquisition pipeline are M-777 light artillery howitzers, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook medium lift helicopters. 
However, none of the recent deals with the US have included transfer of technology (ToT) clauses. There is now a growing realisation in India that future defence acquisitions must simultaneously lead to a transformative change in the country’s defence technology base and manufacturing prowess. Hence, it is imperative that the weapons and equipment that India acquires now must be procured with a ToT clause being built into the contract even though it means having to pay a higher price. The aim should be to make India a design, development, manufacturing, export and servicing hub for defence equipment in about two decades.
The extended Defence Framework Agreement should take stock of the goals of the 2005 agreement that have not been fully achieved. It should profess a renewed commitment to achieving them. The foremost in this category is the transfer of weapons technology. 
The Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) was a key candidate for joint production, but the US has been hesitant to offer its seeker, warhead and navigation technology. India is also looking for high-end counter-IED technologies. In future, the two countries should conduct joint research and development for new weapons systems. The US should consider offering technology for nuclear power packs for submarines and aircraft carriers and fighter aircraft engines. 
There has been no progress in cooperation on sharing BMD technology. Intelligence sharing is limited to ongoing counter-terrorism operations at present. It should be extended to the sharing of data bases as well, particularly the terrorism data base maintained by the US NCTC and India’s NATGRID. Cooperation of this nature will raise India’s technology base by an order of magnitude and help the country to move several notches higher in its quest for self-reliance in defence production.
Prime Minister Modi’s government has raised the FDI limit for defence joint ventures (JVs) to 49 per cent equity participation. It is likely to be open to modifying the offsets policy, which is considered a stumbling block. US-based defence MNCs should take into account the Indian PM’s exhortation to industry to “make in India” and sell anywhere. The two governments should act as facilitators for their public and private sector companies to form JVs for the joint design and development and co-production of future weapons platforms. The export laws should be suitably amended so that weapons and equipment can be exported to achieve economies of scale.
Concluding Observations
There is mutual recognition of the adverse implications of China’s increasing assertiveness and the need to work in unison with the international community to uphold the unfettered use of the global commons like the sea lanes of communication, space and cyberspace. China’s recent belligerence in the South China Sea and its assertiveness in dealing with the dispute over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands with Japan have undermined international and regional confidence in its desire to resolve disputes peacefully. India is building robust military intervention capabilities and the armed forces are engaged in the process of formulating a doctrine to give effect to these capabilities.
Though India values its strategic autonomy and recognises that each bilateral relationship is important in its own way, the policy makers realise that the geo-political contours of the 21st century and peace and stability, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, will be shaped through cooperative security. In future, India may conduct joint military operations with the US in its area of strategic interest in a contingency in which India’s vital national interests are threatened; preferably as a Chapter 7 intervention under the UN flag, or as part of a “coalition of the willing”. 
Overall, the India-US strategic partnership is moving steadily forward. Perhaps the most important of the recent agreements is the expression of the two countries’ determination to work together for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. This challenging commitment may one day lead to a requirement for India to undertake joint operations to deal with a contingency. 
By tacitly agreeing to discharge its responsibilities as a regional power, India has at long last stood up to be counted. If India intervenes militarily in its regional neighbourhood, joint operations will not be undertaken because it is in the American interest, but because it is in India’s interest as a member of a cooperative security framework that seeks to maintain harmony in the use of the Global Commons in the Indo-Pacific.