WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Pentagon official said on Tuesday he had “high expectations” for a joint U.S.-Indian effort to deepen defense ties, but it could take a while to reach agreement on specific weapons to develop or produce together.
“Prime Minister Modi is very aware of the initiative. His staff is clearly motivated at every level to make it a success and move forward,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, told Reuters after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“I don’t think people should expect instantaneous major announcements. It’s going take a little ... while to work out exactly what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”
Kendall is the top U.S. official working on the joint Defense Trade and Technology Initiative with India that has identified 17 specific defense projects.
He said India and the United States were still discussing one of those ideas: a joint program for significant upgrades to the Javelin “fire and forget” anti-tank missile built by Lockheed Martin Corp(LMT.N) and Raytheon Co(RTN.N).
He said Washington was also open to a broader agreement on missile development with India, which could benefit both sides at a time when U.S. military spending is declining.
“If we pool our resources, we may be able to do more than the U.S. currently has planned,” he said.
India’s defense ministry is drafting a framework agreement after what he called a “very constructive” meeting with his counterpart in Washington several days ago, and the two sides agreed to alternate visits every six months.
In addition to several more traditional direct arms sales suggested by the defense industry, Kendall had asked the U.S. military services to put together a list of new smaller-scale weapons programs that India could join from the start.
Kendall gave no details, but said several U.S. Army programs might be good candidates and he planned to take the list of possibilities to India when he travels there in November.
India’s military needed to assess its requirements and funding before any specific agreements could be reached.
“There are plenty of grounds for us to get together,” he said. “What we do have to find are products that we both want, that we’re going to commit some resources to.”
Reporting by Andrea Shalal. Editing by Andre Grenon