By Haider Abbas
It hadn’t been long when India made noises over the purported supply of F-16 bombers to Pakistan by US. EAM S Jaishankar had taken a dig by countering the US’ argument that the package was being offered to fight terrorism, Jaishankar said, “You are not fooling anybody by saying these things. For someone to say I am doing this because it is all counter-terrorism content and so when you are talking of an aircraft like a capability of an F-16 where everybody knows, you know where they are deployed and their use,” he had said at an event for the Indian-American community in the US, reported OutlookIndia 1 US had taken the decision for F-16 upgrade for Pakistan in September last. US has now placated India.
It has now come to light, as per Bloomberg 2 , that ‘Made-in-India GE Jet Engines Sought in Closer US Security Ties. US reviewing GE proposal to build jet engines with India. India-Russia relationship one factor of the new initiative. The US and India plan to share advanced defense and computing technology, including the potential joint production of General Electric Co. jet engines, as the Biden administration seeks to shift New Delhi away from Russia and counter China. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a briefing that the framework won’t be solely driven by the geopolitical challenges posed by Moscow or Beijing. But he added that China’s aggressive military moves and economic practices have had “a profound impact on the thinking in Delhi” and other capitals around the world.’ This announcement came on February 1.
The ambitious project based on technology and defence between India and US has been launched when India’s US counterpart Ajit Doval was on his visit to US. Now US and India are to make jointly the fighter jets apart from other various aircrafts with a prime focus on China and Russia. India has been long in conflict with China, since 1962, when both nations had gone to war, and in the recent past, there have been skirmishes, which even had resulted into deaths of solders from both the sides. India does not have ‘reservations’ into calling-out for China, but US, has now openly referred to China. US has now declared that ‘China is a major challenge (read threat) to India and to the world,’ reported NDTV 3 . The roadmap for this Indo-US venture is now clear, as through Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET) both have become “trusted technology partners”, which is slated to further deepen the defence the relationship with a ‘focus on co-production and co-development, and institutionalise a standing mechanism to overcome regulatory barriers and export controls, particularly on the American side,’ informed The Hindustan Times 4.
The pivotal point, apart from US endeavor to make India become stronger to counter China, there has also been a reference to Russia too! This is what matters the most, as India’s has been importing Russia weaponry and arms from the past seven decades and now US through this initiative is to wean India from the Russia clasp. US wants to shoot three with a single bullet. It is engaged with China on multiple fronts, hence, wants to embolden India to check-up with China. It also does not want Russia to reclaim the lost superpower status and wants to bring it down, by making India less dependent on it, and thirdly, wants India to come-out of the Russian clutches, and instead become solely dependent on it (sic). US and EU has massively supported Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine war with arms and billions of USD.
The unfolding and upcoming scenario is that now US, under President Joseph Biden, has decided to take-on ‘China and Russia’ via India. This is like carrying the relationship to a further step higher than what was signed between the outgoing US President Donald Trump and PM Narendra Modi called BECA ( Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) which sanctioned India to get real-time access to US geospatial intelligence. The decks for this ICET had been cleared during the last QUAD (a group of Australia, Japan, India and US) meeting in May last year. This emerging group is considered to be the next front against China. Once this technology-transfer is to start to come to India, it will follow the next initiatives soon.
The importance given to this new agreement can be assuaged from the way US, on its White-House website, has issued a fact-sheet on it, which can be accessed on internet, and now it is only a matter of days, that the US giant General Electric, is to get a green-signal from US to start to make fighter-jet engines in India apart from other equipments. This making of the jet-engine is the most prestigious technology which has till date remained only as a US great forte. This is what is now to land in India. India has also started to collaborate making jet-engine with France after a billion Euro deal, had reported The Print 5 . India is yet to develop an indigenous jet-engine. Even in Tejas-the Indian fighter jet there is a General Electric engine, told DefenceNews 6.
It is certainly now going to be a giant leap for the ‘defence in India’ as India has already gone ahead with making of the fifth-generation fighter-jet, despite there being a US embargo on the transfer of this technology. Now with US GE putting into, India will be able to truly claim ‘Made-in-India’ jet-engine, after the joint venture of Indian and US scientists. All of the lacunas of the past have now been away with ICET. A great fillip has now come to India. How the next steps would influence India and Russian relations and what is to be the Chinese stand on this unfolding bonhomie is still to be seen.
The way US and India have come together in the midst of the raging war between Ukraine and Russia, shows US attempt to seize the opportunity to rope-into India, against both China and Russia in the longer run. What is to happen in the coming years is yet to be seen.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international issues.