F-18 super hornets and MQ-9 drones are on the agenda as India’s top ministers prepare to visit the United States amid high-octane tensions


With the announcement of the upcoming 2+2 meeting between India and the United States on Monday April 11, the two nations will consider a long list of issues to strengthen their strategic and defense ties, but disagreements over the Russian invasion of Ukraine could dominate the discussions.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced on Thursday that External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh will visit the United States for the 2+2 Ministerial Meeting on 11 and April 12 in Washington.

Jaishankar and Singh will meet with their US counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to discuss a range of issues ranging from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to other security-related issues and to foreign policy.

This year’s 2+2 will commemorate 75 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and India and underscore the importance of the comprehensive and global strategic partnership between the two countries in maintaining international peace and security, said U.S. Department of State officials said in a statement. .

The foreign and defense ministries of the two nations are meeting in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, and as recent events have demonstrated, their policies toward Moscow’s actions are not exactly in harmony.

On Tuesday, TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, spoke at a UN Security Council session on Ukraine, calling the reported massacre in Bucha “deeply troubling” while avoiding any explicit mention of Russia.

In recent weeks, India has seen a wave of visits by officials from European countries to understand and comprehend India’s position on the current Ukraine crisis.

Table defense deals

As the United States imposes unprecedented sanctions on Russia, Washington will try to sell important defense platforms to India. The two countries enjoy strong defense ties and have already signed many key pacts to strengthen their defense cooperation, including the Security and Compatibility Agreement (COMCASA), the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA), Communications, Industrial Security Agreement (ISA) and BECA. .

After being listed as a major defense partner by the Donald Trump administration in 2016, India was promoted to Tier 1 Strategic Trade Clearance status in 2018. This means India will have unrestricted access to a wide array of military and dual-use technologies. of this status.

During this visit, many defense experts predict that the two countries will explore several agreements. Washington is likely to persuade New Delhi to buy the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers, Boeing’s F/A-18 Block III Super Hornets, as well as 30 MQ9B armed drones from General Atomics.

File Image: F-18

Hindustan time recently reported that Boeing will send two F-18 Super Hornets to INS Hansa’s land test facility in Goa next month to undertake flight tests for the Indian Navy’s future fighter jet for the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant .

The Rafale-M, successfully tested by the Indian Navy in January on the same site in Goa, is the other fighter considered by the Indian Navy.

In the case of General Atomics’ MQ9B drones, it was reported last month that India’s plan to purchase armed Predator drones from the United States had been halted due to their exorbitant prices and to encourage domestic manufacturing. of drones. However, this visit could allow the two countries to reach an agreement on the purchase.

MQ-1 Predator
An MQ-1 Predator, armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. (Wikipedia)

The F-15EX is another high-level military hardware that US-based Boeing has offered to the Indian Air Force. Pratt Kumar, vice president of Boeing and head of the F-15 program was in India before the meeting and spoke with senior officials from the Ministry of Defense, reported Financial Express.

In addition, the delivery of a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure, a large aircraft missile defense system worth nearly $190 million, is also pending. The Integrated Air Defense Weapons System (IADWS), a $1.867 billion deal, has yet to materialize. The last US administration previously approved its sale to India.

The two countries are also expected to discuss expanding their cooperation in space, as well as the launch of the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite, which will launch in 2023.

The space agencies of the two countries are already cooperating in the field of satellite navigation (SatNav) and the US Congress has agreed to recognize the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) as an “allied system” in principle.

American-Indian relations

The meeting is expected to take place at a time when the two nations are experiencing a big difference over the Ukraine crisis. The United States seeks to persuade New Delhi not only to condemn Russia, but also to stop trading with Moscow.

Late last month, during a visit to India, US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh warned India against expanding trade ties with Moscow, which whether through the purchase of weapons or Russian oil at a reduced price.

“What Daleep has made clear to his counterparts during this visit is that we do not believe it is in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of energy and other Russian raw materials,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week.

On the other hand, India could seek assurances from the United States on the purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

S-400 – Twitter

In the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, India has stressed that communication and diplomacy are the only way forward. Delhi abstained in UN votes against Russia, including one Thursday on a resolution calling for Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council.

Regardless of their disagreements over the Ukraine crisis, the planned meeting of the two countries will strengthen their ties and expand their engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.


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