NEW DELHI — Indo-US defense ties will continue with Donald Trump as the next US president, government officials here agree.
"India had very good relations with earlier Republican presidents and also with President Barack Obama, and there will be continuity in strategic and defense ties with Trump as president as well," a senior official with the Ministry of External Affairs said.
India has bought weapons and equipment worth $15 billion in the last 10 years. However, defense ties between the two countries have merely been of the buy-and-sell nature. Under Obama, efforts were made to increase the defense ties to co-production and co-development of weaponry, but no co-development project has yet to be signed.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Trump on his electoral victory on Twitter. "Congratulations @realDonaldTrump on being elected as the 45th US President."
In a separate tweet, he added: "We look forward to working with you closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height."
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) official said the agency hoped to see more co-development and co-production of hi-tech weaponry with the US.
During the January 2015 visit to India, Obama agreed to help India develop jet engine and aircraft carrier technology. The two countries also renewed their 10-year Defense Framework Agreement, which also incorporated the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) — a forum aimed at identifying weapons projects for joint development.
"The DTTI under the Trump administration, we hope, will work with more vigor and identify weapon projects which can be jointly developed," the MoD official said.
Currently at the top of India's wish list is the purchase of armed drones, such as the Avenger, from the United States.
"The decision on the sale of drones has been left by [the] Obama administration to the new president, and we hope Trump would clear the sale of the drones to India," the official said.
"We anticipate a reinvigorated dialogue on defense and security between both nations. There exists tremendous potential for Indo-US defense partnership since the American defense industry is private sector-led and India seeks foreign partners to develop its defense industrial base," said Vaibhav Malik, a defense analyst with U.S.-India Business Council.
In June 2016, after it was granted entry to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Indian government requested from the US 22 Guardian UAVs estimated to be worth more than $2 billion.
India's entry into MTCR gave it access to acquire advanced and combat-ready UAVs.
Later in September, the Indian Air Force expressed interest in acquiring Predator Avenger attack drones. This interest was made known to the Obama administration during Modi's visit to the US, the MoD official added.
In August, India and the US signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which allows the two countries to collaborate more closely and use each other's defense bases for repair and replenishment.
"The speed with which the Trump administration agrees to [the] sale of armed UAVs and identify[s] technologies, which can be shared-like the jet technology, will finally determine the future course of defense ties," said Nitin Mehta, defense analyst in India.