Hagel Says U.S., India Should Jointly Develop, Produce Arms

By Santanu Choudhury

NEW DELHI--The U.S. and India must broaden the scope of their military partnership by jointly developing and producing arms, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday.

Capping a three-day visit to New Delhi, Mr. Hagel also said the U.S. and India should increase the "scale and complexity" of their military exercises.

The two countries should "transform our defense industrial cooperation from simply buying and selling to co- production, co-development and freer exchange of technology," Mr. Hagel told scholars and business leaders at an event organized by the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.

Mr. Hagel met with Indian leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. He also met with Indian and U.S. defense companies in New Delhi.

India--the world's largest importer of arms--has also become the largest buyer of U.S. weapons, ordering more than $10 billion of U.S. arms in the past decade from companies like Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co.

But the South Asian country is now pushing for greater local production of weapons to develop its domestic defense industry.

Mr. Hagel said the U.S. is proposing projects that would transfer production and technology know-how to India. Among the weapons involved is the Javelin antitank missile. Technology transfer and joint production of the Javelin "is an unprecedented offer that we have made only to India and no one else to ensure defense industrial cooperation receives the attention it demands," he said.

He said the U.S. and India "may not agree on every issue" but "today as India looks East and the U.S. rebalances its interests" toward Asia, the two countries "are aligning more closely than ever."

Worried about an increasingly assertive and stronger China, Indian leaders have sought to bolster their country's armed services and have looked to strengthen ties with Japan and other Asian counterweights to China.

But New Delhi, wary of provoking instability in the region and along its own disputed border with China, has generally moved cautiously and tried to avoid any appearance of working with the U.S. to contain China's rise.

Mr. Hagel said India need not choose "between closer partnership with America and improved ties with China" just as the U.S. "need not choose between its Asian alliances and a constructive relationship with China"

Write to Santanu Choudhury at santanu.choudhury@wsj.com

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