Visit of US Secretary of State: Military equipment sales to enhance defence cooperation

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Delhi on 24th October night on his 3-day maiden official visit to India. In the course of talks between him and External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, both sides deliberated extensively on further enhancing bilateral defence and security ties as well as ways to deal with challenge of terrorism in the region.

Rex Tillerson stressed on India emerging as the leading power in the region South Asia to justify the US State’s commitment to providing India “…with the best technologies for its military modernisation efforts which include ambitious offers by American industry for F-16 and F-18 fighter planes.”

It is reported that around the same time, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman held a bilateral meeting with US Defence Secretary James Mattis on the sidelines of a meeting of ASEAN defence ministers in the Philippines.

India and the United States State signed a landmark defense agreement in August 2016 that committed to increase military cooperation. Such cooperation between the US State and Indian States have been growing over the years. In the same year, India was granted the ‘Major Defence Partner’ status by the previous Barack Obama Administration, providing for transfer of technology and deeper cooperation in the defence sector.

The Trump administration is continuing on the same trajectory. Rex Tillerson was earlier quoted to have said that in keeping with India’s status as a major defense partner and their mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defence options for India’s consideration.

The United States is the ­second-largest defense-equipment supplier to India, with about $4.4 billion worth of deals in the past three years. It is also India’s most common partner in military exercises. India is at the present time the world’s largest purchaser of military hardware. The arms deals between India and the US grew from practically nothing in 2008 to $8 billion in 2013 and would be more than $12 billion at this time. The arms deals are a part of a large geo-political collaboration between the two countries. However, they provide a boost to the military industrial complex of US imperialism.

For its part, the Indian ruling class sees itself as a rising big power in the world. It is exporting its capital and expanding its markets, with ever-increasing demand for sources of energy and raw materials. It regards it as its “right”, as a “big power”, to exercise hegemony, not just in South Asia but on a wider scale. It considers the entire Indian Ocean region, from Africa to the Straits of Malacca, as its potential sphere of influence. To support its imperialist ambitions, it continues to feverishly militarise, as well as build alliances with different countries.


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