The United States is not in a position to antagonise India for too long. India, being well connected on good terms with most countries, especially the competitors of the USA has the potential to act as a bridge between both sides. Keeping this in mind, recently Biden offered AMCA engines to India. But, shrewd India will reject it.
US offers to co-develop AMCA
According to a report by BW Businessworld, the Unites States is ready to assist India in the development of Jet engine technology. The chances of the technology being used in our futuristic Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) are extremely high. Indian agencies have already received proposals for the development of a 110 Kilo-Newton (Kn) thrust engine from General Electric, a Boston-based company.
General Electric is the third company in the race. The other two are Rolls Royce of the United Kingdom and Safran of France. A source cited by the ABP-led magazine said and we quote, “The options for a tie-up are open from among the three contenders. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is the lead agency and a private Indian entity is also likely to be involved in the programme”
Puzzling development for many
The offer came out of nowhere. Both countries have been on the negotiation table for technological collaboration for quite some time now. India and the USA have a flexible mechanism called India-US Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). Under DTTI, a similar proposal for the development of Jet Engines was on the cards. But, the United States did not want to share its technology. On the other hand, in most of the Defence deals, India now insists on the transfer of technology, in a push towards Aatmanirbharta in Defence. The tight rope could not be stretched more and in 2019, the proposal was suspended.
But, this sudden revival of the proposal holds two broader significances. Number one, India is now focusing on indigenous Defence manufacturing and within a few years, the scope for benefitting from exporting arms and ammunition to India will get extremely narrow. So, the USA wants to take as much pie as it can. However, this is common business sense. There is also a huge strategic advantage that the Biden administration is trying to chalk out from the deal.
The USA wants to stop France’s rise
The United States want to drastically increase the revenue of its already declining military-industrial complex and it is doing it by curtailing the rise of France. Along with General Electric, France’s Safran is also in the race and in fact, it is a top contender as time and again it has been communicated that Safran is willing to share technology. If the USA is not able to stop the deal, it is going to be a huge loss in both revenues as well as the credibility of its weapon industry. Let me explain.
Currently, there are 3 major players in Defence exports. As expected, the United States is at the top with 39 per cent of share in the export market during the period of 2017-2021. The second position is held by Putin’s Russia, with a 19 per cent share. France is at distant 3rd with 11 per cent share. However, more than Russia, the US fears the rise of France. It is because the United States government has a clear-cut policy against Russia. The sanctions game is a prime example of that.
However, it can’t go overt against France. France is a member of both NATO and the European Union, the groups which the USA has close connections with. It can anytime turn out to be an important strategic ally. But, its increasing efficiency in Defence exports is a tough competition for the USA. In the period between 2015-2019, France’s Defence exports jumped by 72 per cent. The United States want to stop this and it is doing so through diplomatic routes.
Torpedoed Norwegian and Australian deal
In 2016, France had agreed to provide Australia with diesel-electric Barracuda submarines. The A$55 billion (Australian Dollar) deal was largely dubbed as “contract of the century”. Suddenly, in 2021, the Biden administration jumped in with a new idea called AUKUS. It is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US. Both countries agreed to help Australia in acquiring Nuclear powered Submarines. As a result of this, the biggest country in the South Pacific unilaterally cancelled its contract to buy submarines from France. In short, the United States torpedoed France’s submarine deal and Boris Johnson acted as an active catalyst.
US and UK did not stop just here as they were now after France’s deal with Norway. In May 2019, it was reported that UK and Norway entered into a security pact to boost “security, sustainability and prosperity” in Europe and even beyond. Within a few weeks, the Norwegian government entered into a deal with the US, allowing it unhindered access to its own military bases. As expected, after getting full support from the US and the UK, Norway decided to terminate its NH90 helicopter deal with France. The decision was so ruthless that it decided to return all those helicopters it had got till then. No second guessing here about who will be replacing the French made helicopters.
India’s market is the third target of Biden administration. Though, it has not made it explicitly clear, but most likely General Electric will agree to transfer technologies to Indian firms. However, it won’t be beneficial to India. What the US will offer, France is already doing it. Additionally, it won’t be overstatement to say that France is India’s closest ally in the European Union. It can work as a big catalyst in promoting India’s interests at India-EU trade negotiations table. Moreover, US’ reliability as a partner has taken further hit during last few years. Its explicitly non-cooperation behaviour during covid times and habit of leaving its allies in tatters when they needed it the most is now a well-documented fact.
There seems to be no logical point in going ahead with the US. The Modi government as well as most Indians understand it deep down their bones.
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