What it means for India to be the ‘major defence partner’ of the US?

India has been designated as major defence partner which is a status given uniquely to India. According to the joint statement made it “institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology-sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future.”

While further details are to be revealed, several commentators have hailed the move as a significant breakthrough in India-US defence relations. But if one is to go by the past records of the Pentagon with regards to its transfer of defence technology to even its NATO allies, is very poor or rather peanuts, when compared to how much technology Kremlin shares or even Tel Aviv.

Above all, the current Indian defence set up and manufacturing is heavily based on Russian technology, moving to US technology may take decades, requiring huge investment crowding out productive investment in other sectors.

At best, the move is only symbolically significant, with PRC at loggerheads with several of the US allies in the South-China Sea and India. New Delhi would serve as a balance to PRC for the US in the region.

India’s best interests would be with the use of Russian tech, while slowly diversifying with few buys from France, Israel, and treading slowly and cautiously towards the US, keeping in mind that Pakistan is well acquainted with US weaponry.

For India, this legislation could be of any significance only if Pentagon reciprocates with deals at least equivalent to, if not more than Kremlin. Until then, stick to older friends, without hurting the new ones.

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