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Enormous potential in defence industry partnerships with India: US

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LUCKNOW (PTI): The US has said there is enormous potential for industry partnerships with India on state-of-the-art defence equipment and also hoped for a revival of the economy so that Delhi can spend more on the sector.

Addressing a conference on Tuesday ahead of a five-day Defence Exposition which begins here today, US Ambassador Kenneth Juster urged interoperability of defence systems deployed by partner countries.

"It is critical that India moves toward systems, not just weapons, that are effective, agile, and resilient," he said.

"We believe that India must ultimately move toward systems that are interoperable with the equipment and networks of its security partners," the envoy added.

From virtually no defence sales between India and the United States in 2001, the figure today is about US$ 18 billion, Juster said.

Asked if the US should tone down its expectation on defence sales to India now because of its lack of funds, he said, "India's own Defence budget obviously is a matter of internal choice."

But he added that one concern over the economic slowdown is that it affected a country's ability to modernise its defence capability.

"So, my first hope is that the economy is revived and growth increases, because that will also increase the money available for defence expenditure, which is very important for India as this region continues to transform," he said.

He said along the pathway to a deeper industry-to-industry relationship between India and the US "there are, of course, barriers that we must overcome".

Juster is leading the US delegation at the 11th edition of the government of India's defence exhibition which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Asked if any defence cooperation agreement was on the cards during the anticipated visit by the US President, he said Donald Trump has expressed his strong desire to come to India but the visit has not been announced yet.

"Regardless, we are hoping to announce a range of defence deals in near future. We are working on several of them, he said.

The theme of the DefExpo this year is ''Digital Transformation of Defence".

He said the "greatest value of the occasion is it provides for our companies to foster closer industry-to-industry ties in what is a key pillar of the US-India relationship".

"I have found in my travels in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere in India that the potential for industry partnership between our two countries on state-of-the-art defence equipment is enormous," he said.

US firms participating in this event are at present partnering with companies across India, including in Uttar Pradesh's Defence Corridor, to produce defence equipment "not just for our countries' militaries, but for those of partner nations," Juster said.

For example, he said, Tata has partnered with Lockheed Martin to build all C-130 tails and F-16 wings here and Boeing is collaborating with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to produce all AH-64 Apache fuselages in Hyderabad.

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