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US approves sale of anti-ship missiles, torpedoes to India

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WASHINGTON (PTI): The Trump administration has notified the Congress of its determination to sell Harpoon air-launched anti-ship missiles and Mark 54 lightweight torpedoes worth US$ 155 million to India to enhance its deterrent capabilities against "regional threats" and to bolster its homeland defence.

The US recognised India as a "Major Defence Partner" in 2016. This designation allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from America at par with that of the US' closest allies and partners.

The sale of 10 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles is estimated to cost US$ 92 million, while 16 MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight Torpedoes and three MK 54 Exercise Torpedoes are estimated to cost US$ 63 million, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said on April 13, 2020 in two separate notifications to the Congress.

The US State Department made this determination following a request for these two military hardware made by the Indian Government, the Pentagon said amidst China flexing its military muscles in the strategic Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean.

According to the Pentagon, the Harpoon missile system will be integrated into the P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft to conduct anti-surface warfare missions in defence of critical sea lanes while enhancing inter-operability with the United States and other allied forces.

"India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. India will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces," the Pentagon said.

While the Harpoon missiles will be manufactured by Boeing, the torpedoes would be supplied by Raytheon, the notification said.

The proposed sale, it said, will improve India's capability to meet current and future threats from enemy weapon systems. The MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo will provide the capability to conduct anti-submarine warfare missions.

"India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. India intends to utilize MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes on its P-8I aircraft. India will have no difficulty absorbing these systems into its armed forces," it said.

In both the notifications, the Pentagon said that the proposed sale of these equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

According to the Pentagon, this proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-India strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years, which it says it has the right to defend.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims. In the East China Sea, Beijing has territorial disputes with Japan.

The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade.

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