June 08, 2012
Credit: Pentagon photo
NEW DELHI — The clouds over a U.S. deal to sell FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles to India have cleared, with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying the U.S. government is committed to the sale.
Until Panetta’s visit to India on June 5, there were fears that the Indian army’s plan to equip its 350-odd infantry battalions with thousands of Javelin missiles was going to hit a wall, amid reports that the U.S. State Department has slashed India’s request for the missiles and planned to offer only a limited quantity.
Discounting such speculation, Panetta says, “I don’t know where the hell that story came from . . . it’s not true. We haven’t cut the sale in half.
“I want to assure you that we’re committed to a full sale of the Javelin to India,” he says. “And we are working very closely with India not only on that sale, but on other sales as well to try to improve their capabilities.”
Faced with a huge shortfall of anti-tank missiles and the delayed induction of the indigenous Nag missile, India has been scouting for adequate offensive systems and has been in talks since 2008 with the U.S. about the Javelin, which is built by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Panetta admits that the bureaucratic process in the Obama administration has delayed several military sales to India, and the Javelin deal is no exception.
“Oftentimes we run into the barriers of various laws that have been passed either by our Congress or your congress and that sometimes provide bureaucratic barriers to trying to complete these sales,” Panetta says. “I have asked my deputy secretary Ash Carter to oversee this effort and try to develop a broader strategy to be more effective in trying to reduce the barriers and improve the efficiency in those sales. So that’s the approach that I’m hoping to take,” Panetta says.
U.S. defense sales to India have crossed the $8 billion mark over the past decade, and the relationship between the two countries must now mature from the current buyer-seller arrangement to co-production and joint research and development, Panetta says.