Hope Indian govt will look afresh at US defence foundational pacts: Boeing official

Bengaluru: US companies are hopeful that the Narendra Modi government will take a fresh look at the issue of signing US foundational agreements for transfer of military technology and weapons, according to a top Boeing official.

"I hope the new government will take a fresh look at it. I think it is India's advantage to do so. It will really ease a lot of government to government transactions," said retired US Air Force Lt General and Boeing's vice presidnet for International Business Development Defense Space and Security. The UPA government had refused to sign the agreements.

"It will also build more trust on the US side that India does recognise and take more seriously some security issues around very sensitive technology," Kohler, here for the ongoing five-day Aero India air show, told PTI.

US law requires the country to sign three agreements - logistics support, CISMOA (Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) and BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geo-spatial cooperation) - before agreeing to transfer sophisticated military technology and weapons.

Kohler said the change the new government made to increase FDI to 49 per cent was a very positive step, but things wouldn't happen overnight.

Kohler was earlier Director of the US' Defense Security Cooperation Agency that is tasked with directing and overseeing American foreign military sales along with other functions. Kohler said "Even "Make In India" may not move as fast as some Indians would like to see because it takes time."

He said, "You just don't jump into the global supply chain as a top supplier with no experience. So you have to start small and build the way up." Kohler said the workforce and management have to understand that they have to be competitive in the global market - by having the best product at the lowest cost. "The workforce and management have to understand that they have to be competitive in the global market - I have to have the best product at the lowest cost, and Indian companies are going to help a lot there. It takes time to build up experience and know-how to get that done," he added.

Kohler said US companies are definitely ready to share their intellectual property with countries for them to produce the product. Right now, Kohler said, what India needs is to be part of global supply chain, not necessarily niche defence products.

"The Indian industry needs most right now is to be a part of global supply chain, not necessarily niche defence products, but get into the global supply chain," he added.

Explaining the need for signing foundational agreements, Kohler said, "During the discussions with Indian counterparts when I was with the US government, I had said - suppose India sells the Brahmos to country A and then it sells to country B and then to country C and that country sells to them who are at your border - How do you feel? There will be security problems," he said.

"India needs to protect their technology so that it does not fall in wrong hands and is used against it some day. These are the issues that India has to sort it out," Kohler added. Asked about the future of Indo-US defence cooperation, Kohler said defence technology and trade initiative Modi and US President Barack Obama talked about has been very positive.

"I think the defence technology and trade initiative Prime Minister Modi and President Obama talked about is very positive. They selected a couple of projects," he said. He said he is very excited about the future, but in some ways they are little hindered by some offset policies, in spite of making steady progress.

"In some ways we are little hindered by some of the offset policies, although are making steady progress where we need to be," he added. However, Kohler said it does not mean that US companies don't want to do offsets."I don't mean that US companies don't want to do offsets. We do that in the world. We just accept that as a part of business internationally, but there has been so much promise in India," he added.

Asked whether US companies are ready to pump in money and set up units in India and share the technology know-how when the Indian government has been stressing on "Make In India" policy, Kohler said that the US government and its companies are willing to share "small amounts" of sensitive technology.

"US companies and US government are willing to share very small amount of sensitive technology. Share - and let the Indian government use it, but may be not teach everything about how to build it," he said.

Kohler, moreover, said the US would definitely want partners, but business dynamics does not allow giving away all their technology because they are in the business of making money to continue their growth.

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