Washington: A top Pentagon official will be heading to India next week to hold intense negotiations with Indian officials on critical defence issues and related areas of collaboration that could be announced during US President Barack Obama's visit to the country for Republic Day.
"The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall plans to travel to India next week," Maureen Schumann, a Department of Defense spokesperson told PTI.
Kendall is the Pentagon's point person on India-related defence issues, in particular on the India-US Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).
"This will be his fourth visit to India and speaks to the importance we place on the relationship," she said. "His primary objective is to continue momentum on the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), which promotes collaboration on defence technology and enables co-production and co-development of critical defence systems," Schumann said.
While in India, Kendall plans to meet with the Defence Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur, and Secretary (Defence Production) G Mohan Kumar. A meeting is also scheduled with Scientific Advisor to the Minister of Defence Avinash Chander, who was sacked by the Defence Ministry this week, but continues in his job till the end of this month.
Kendall would also meet the new US Ambassador to India Richard Verma. Obama will visit India as a first US President to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations. He will have a tight schedule during his three-day trip starting January 25, as he will hold talks with top leadership in New Delhi on ways to make progress on key issues like defence and civil nuclear agreement, among other engagements.
In a speech a few months ago, Kendall had said building India-US defence relationship is a central element of the so-called shift or rebalance to Asia and the Pacific ¿ a core component of the new Defense Strategic Guidance the Defense Department announced in January 2012.
Under DTTI, India and the US are working on identifying some of the high-tech defence items for co-development and co-production, which he describes as "unprecedented". In addition to working together on specific programs, DTTI also includes an effort to expand cooperation in science and technology.
"We have discussed increasing the scale and strategic focus of our existing individual project research agreements in areas of mutual interest," Kendall had said in his address to the US India Business Council last year.
DTTI, he said, is just one facet of an initiative to build a deeper, closer, and broader relationship with one of the most important countries on earth. "A country that is strategically located, shares our values and aspirations, and has enormous potential for growth. A country that we see as a partner for peace and stability in a crucial part of the world," Kendall said.