India, US line up major defence advancements

With a trade deal off the table, India and the US are looking to focus sharply on defence cooperation during the two-day visit of US President Donald Trump to India, and will, in all likelihood, indicate a calendar for the signing of the third foundational military communication agreement between the two countries during the visit, top officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Talks on the finalisation of the Basic Exchange and Co-operation Agreement (BECA) are scheduled to begin as early as March, one of the officials said. BECA will allow India and the US to exchange geospatial maps to get pinpoint military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons such as cruise and ballistic missiles, apart from its civilian use.

In addition, the two countries are likely to sign multiple deals for defence purchases, added this person. This includes a $2.4 billion deal for 24 MH-60R Sikorsky helicopters, and a $930 million deal for six Apache AH-64E attack helicopters for the army from Boeing, both of which were approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security earlier this week. There could also be a further order of eight Poseidon P8I multi-mission aircraft for the Indian Navy and a full spectrum missile shield for New Delhi.

The forthcoming visit is a rare one because President Trump will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner. Daughter Ivanka was conveyed a personal invite from PM Modi after which she agreed to accompany her parents and husband.

The officials said the Trump administration suggested a visit after the US elections, but that the Indian side convinced them otherwise.

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