By Arun Kumar
Washington, Sep 29 (IANS) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged India to "buy American" as it upgrades its defence capabilities as the United States has the finest military hardware in the world.
That was the message she gave Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony during a 30-minute meeting Tuesday when they talked about regional issues such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to State Department spokesman Phillip. J. Crowley.
"They agreed that India and the United States have a mutual interest in a stable Afghanistan, and the Secretary welcomed India's contributions in terms of diplomacy and development in building its own relationship with Afghanistan," he said.
"They also talked about a mutual interest in expanding our defence partnership, and although, I think India is contemplating the purchase of a number of upgrades in its defence capability, and of course US firms are bidding on those projects," Crowley said.
Asked if Clinton and Antony talked about India's $9.11 billion deal for 126 fighter jets or any other items on India's wish list, Crowley said: "I'll defer to the Indian Government. I believe our understanding is that some of those decisions are coming up fairly soon."
"But this is an Indian process, but we're pleased that US companies are competing. We think we have the finest military hardware in the world, and if India is upgrading its defence capabilities, they should buy American."
Asked if that was Clinton's message to Antony, he said: "Indeed."
Two American planes, F-16IN and F/A-18IN, a version of the Super Hornet, are among six aircraft in the race for what has been touted as India's single largest defence deal ever. The Saab Gripen, Euro fighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Mikoyan MiG-35 are the others in the running.
Indian officials gave no details of Antony's meetings with Clinton, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and National Security Advisor General James Jones, but an Indian embassy news release said he had expressed satisfaction "at the increasing range and depth of defence cooperation."
Antony had also conveyed to the United States "India's commitment to add even greater substance" to their defence partnership in the years ahead."
The visit ahead of President Barack Obama's visit to India in November "was part of the intensive ongoing bilateral engagement at high political levels, with a particular focus on defence cooperation," the Indian embassy said.
"During the visit, Antony held detailed discussions with his US counterpart Gates and reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral defence cooperation, including the progressively increasing trade in military-technical equipment, service to service exchanges, joint military exercises and collaboration in defence technologies," it said.
"The two principals also exchanged views on the situation in India's neighbourhood and noted that the expanding bilateral defence cooperation was in mutual interest," officials said but gave no details.
"Upon conclusion of the visit, Antony expressed the view that such high level interactions had successfully served to develop deeper mutual understanding on defence and security issues of shared interest and played an important role in the process of unlocking the full potential of defence cooperation in the overall context of the strategic partnership between India and the United States."