Jet engine co-production, armed drones and tech rush in Modi-Biden talks

The deal "will enable greater transfer of US jet engine technology than ever before", the two sides said in the joint statementL

Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden have announced a slew of defence and technology deals and initiatives that will give India ability to co-produce jet engines, armed SeaGuardian drones, a semiconductor assembly and testing facility, and a shot at the Moon.

The two leaders “affirmed a vision of the United States and India as among the closest partners in the world – a partnership of democracies looking into the 21st century with hope, ambition, and confidence”, according to a joint statement issued after their meeting at the White House on Thursday.

Prime Minister Modi hailed the jet engine deal signed between GE and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) as a “landmark” and the Americans described it as both “groundbreaking” and “trailblazing”. GE will jointly manufacture F-414 engines in India with HAL for use in the next generation of Tejas fighter jets.

The deal “will enable greater transfer of US jet engine technology than ever before”, the two sides said in the joint statement and added: “The leaders committed their governments to working collaboratively and expeditiously to support the advancement of this unprecedented co-production and technology transfer proposal.”

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The two leaders welcomed India’s plans to buy General Atomics’s armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAVs, which will be assembled in India. The drones will enhance the ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities of India’s armed forces across domains. General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global MRO facility in India to support India’s long-term goals to boost indigenous defense capabilities, in a nod to the Prime Minister’s “Make in India” campaign.

Defense announcements also included the adoption of a Defense Industrial Cooperation Roadmap to provide policy direction to defense industries and enable co-production of advanced defense systems, and Master Ship Repairs Agreement with Indian shipyards for US navy ships to go for repairs.

Technology featured “very prominently” in the discussions between Modi and Biden, as Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said, and the joint statement clearly reflected it with at least 21 initiatives cutting across domains and sectors and spanning everything from technology transfer to technology trade, to trade in technology products, and technology services.

The joint statement listed out between 20 and 25 ares of new partnership or initiatives, including: $825 million investment by Micron Technology, Inc to build a new semiconductor assembly and test facility in India; Lam Research proposing to train 60,000 Indian engineers; Applied Materials, Inc., to invest $400 million to establish a collaborative engineering center in India.

The joint statement noted India signing on to the Artemis Accords, a US-led agreement to set the norms for exploration and exploitation of the Moon, Mars and the potentially mineral-rich asteroids.(IANS)

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