Indian Army Chief’s upcoming US visit aimed at strengthening strategic partnership

Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande is set to embark on a crucial visit to the United States aimed at bolstering the bilateral strategic partnership and fostering military cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

This visit comes at a pivotal moment, coinciding with discussions regarding the joint production of Stryker armored fighting vehicles as part of the efforts to expand defense-industrial collaboration between the two nations.

Key Talks and Agenda

During his visit scheduled from Feb 13 to 16, General Pande is expected to engage in discussions with his counterpart, US Army Chief General Randy George, and other senior officials.

The agenda will encompass a wide array of topics, ranging from military transformation and collaborative production initiatives to addressing challenges posed by China’s assertive actions in the Indo-Pacific region and other security concerns, according to official sources.

Exploring Defense Collaborations

India and the US have been exploring opportunities for joint manufacturing of Stryker armored infantry combat vehicles.

These vehicles, known for their blend of firepower and battlefield agility, were discussed during the recent two-plus-two ministerial dialogue held on Nov 10.

The discussions aim to leverage India’s existing capabilities in the production process.

India and US had discussed the joint manufacture of the eight-wheeled Stryker armoured infantry combat vehicles, which combine firepower with rapid mobility on the battlefield, during the two-plus-two ministerial dialogue on Nov 10.

The plan is to co-produce the Stryker vehicles with “existing Indian capabilities being taken into account”, said a source to TOI.

Final commercial negotiations for the co-production of GE-F414 jet engines for the Tejas Mark-II fighters in India, with 80% transfer of technology for around $1 billion, are already underway.

“The contract between Hindustan Aeronautics and General Electric should be inked within a month or two,” said a source to TOI.

Advancements in Defense Technology

In addition to the discussions on Stryker vehicles, commercial negotiations are underway for the co-production of GE-F414 jet engines for India’s Tejas Mark-II fighters.

This deal, valued at around $1 billion, involves significant technology transfer, with the contract expected to be finalized between Hindustan Aeronautics and General Electric in the coming months.

Furthermore, India’s proposed acquisition of 31 MQ-9B high-altitude, long-endurance drones, including Sea Guardians for the Navy and Sky Guardians for the Army and Air Force, worth $3.9 billion, has received formal notification from the Biden administration to the US Congress, signaling progress in defense procurement plans.

Roadmap for Collaboration

Both countries have finalized a bilateral defense-industrial cooperation roadmap aimed at expediting technology collaboration and co-production endeavors.

Priority areas identified under this roadmap include air combat and support systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, ground mobility systems, undersea domain awareness, and smart munitions.

Strengthening Supply Chains

Efforts are underway to enhance supply chain resilience through initiatives such as the Security of Supply Arrangement (SOSA), which seeks to integrate defense-industrial ecosystems between India and the US.

Additionally, discussions are ongoing for a Reciprocal Defense Procurement agreement, although it is expected to take more time to materialize fully.

General Pande’s visit underscores the commitment of both nations to deepen their defense ties and address shared security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, reflecting the evolving dynamics of the India-US strategic partnership.