After several years of delays, the United States and India recently announced that they are moving ahead with two joint military research projects. American Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar signed the defense agreement on June 3, 2015 in New Delhi. This is part of the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), a mechanism created in 2012 that emphasizes collaboration for mutual benefit. The US already works closely with many countries in joint development of defense technology, but US officials say this initiative is significant because it is part of a “broader, strategic effort” to strengthen ties with India.
One of the projects is a high-tech mobile generator for the Marine Corps. It would use solar energy, be more efficient and portable, and work in remote areas. Another is a protective suit for the Army that would be lightweight and also more effective against chemical and biological hazards. Both projects are considered small, each with a budget of $1 million, but the hope is that they will lay the groundwork for larger ventures in the future. Another two possible projects are developing air carrier and jet engine technology.
The US views India as a potential key partner in the Asia Pacific. Cooperation with India as it modernizes its military is seen as strategically and economically beneficial. India is looking to become a global power through strategic collaboration, especially under Prime Minister Modi. This cooperation is the latest example in a trend of warming ties between the US and India, whose relationship was substantially less close due to India’s non-alignment policy during the Cold War. Moreover, the large bureaucracies of both countries have slowed down efforts at defense cooperation in the past. The DTTI was created to counter these obstacles, and is now moving forward as the Modi and Obama administrations both make strengthening military and diplomatic ties a priority.
Meghana Nerurkar is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at American University.