India is making ready a $2.6 billion U.S. naval helicopter deal for final approval from U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin ahead of a proposed visit by U.S. President Donald Trump this month. The information was revealed by the defence and industry sources of India.
The Modi government is attempting to hold nothing back for President Trump’s visit in an offer to assure strategic ties between the two nations, that have been buffeted by sharp contrasts over trade, to counter China.
Earlier, Russia was the largest arms supplier of India but since 2007 India has changed its decision and started to purchase its military equipment from the United States that have reached $17 billion. India is looking to modernise its military and reduce the gap with China.
A defence official briefed that PM Modi’s cabinet committee on security is expected to clear the purchase of 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian navy in the next two weeks.
“It’s a government-to-government deal, it is close,” said the industry source. The helicopters will be brought through the U.S. foreign military sales route aiming to reduce the lengthy negotiations between Lockheed and the Indian government. The helicopters will be deployed on India’s warships.
On Monday, the White House officially confirmed that President Trump would be visiting India on 24th Feb, which is his first official trip to the country. India and the US are both working on a limited trade agreement ahead of the trip. Last year both the countries engaged in trade wars by imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s imports.
Trump considered India as the “tariff king of the world,” but the Modi government is attempting to address some of his concerns. Last year, the US State Department approved the sale of the choppers to India along with radars, torpedoes, and 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Sources said India’s plan to purchase 30 uncrewed aircraft for surveillance of the Indian Ocean at $2.5 billion from General Atomics, was dismissed due to lack of funds.