US ‘natural partner’ in Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative: Vivek Lall

Washington: Describing “Atmanirbhar Bharat” as a brilliant initiative which was long overdue, a top Indian-American CEO has said that the US is a natural partner in India’s initiative to make the country self-reliant in various fields, particularly in defence.

The remarks by Vivek Lall, Chief Executive of General Atomics Global Corporation, came ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to the US in June.

“I think it (Atmanirbhar Bharat) is a brilliant initiative by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Atmanirbhar Bharat is a long overdue process that needs to evolve and, in its definition, itself is a lot of collaboration, a lot of R&D (Research and Development), joint R&D, and a lot of technologies that need to be incubated for the betterment of India,” Lall told PTI in an interview.

“It is a very laudable initiative. I think the US is a natural partner in that. The ability of the US and India to work together to achieve the Prime Minister’s goals is probably the best path forward for success, not only in India, but as well as in the US,” he said/

Lall, one of the five American CEOs who Modi met during his last visit to the city, said the prime minister has “a very bold and strategic vision” for the India-US relationship.

It is deeply admirable what the prime minister has put in place, both in terms of a policy standpoint and also an execution standpoint, he said.

“Very recently, in January this year, the initiative on critical and emerging technologies or ICET (Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology) dialogue was inaugurated by the national security advisors from India and the US, in critical emerging technologies, things like artificial intelligence, semiconductors and quantum computing and so forth,” Lall said.

This shows that the vision of Prime Minister Modi is farsighted, and he has the ability to garner the interest of both countries in the common goal of keeping a free and clear Indo-Pacific in terms of the geopolitics of the day, as well as looking at the century of innovation, he said.

“And I think both countries are best suited to work together,” Lall said in response to a question.

Lall said the US-India defence relationship has really evolved over the last couple of decades that he has been observing it.

“The relationship has taken on a very strategic meaning at this point in time, where both countries have come together, not only in terms of defence trade but also in terms of real co-development, co-production and technology sharing, as well as military-to-military engagements,” he said.

“So, I think that relationship with the announcements of the various foundational agreements over time and India being declared as a major defence partner has resulted in a very strong convergence,” he said.

Among the significant defence agreements signed in recent years are the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (2016); the Memorandum of Intent between the US Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defense Innovation Organisation – Innovation for Defence Excellence (2018); Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (2018); Industrial Security Agreement (2019); Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (2020).

The current India-US defence cooperation is based on the “New Framework for India-US Defence Cooperation”, which was renewed for a period of ten years in 2015. In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major Defence Partnership (MDP) to build a comprehensive, enduring and mutually beneficial defence partnership.

On July 30 2018, India was moved into the Tier-1 of the US Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorisation license exception.

Last week, US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, Colin Kahl, co-chaired the 17th US-India Defence Policy Group alongside India’s Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane.

The Dialogue advanced an ambitious agenda — including industrial cooperation, information-sharing, maritime security, and technological collaboration — that reflects the robust and comprehensive defence ties between the United States and India, according to Department of Defense Spokesman Lt Col David Herndon.

In a recent interview with PTI, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu said that it makes eminent sense for India to produce world-class defence equipment for its own needs, and potentially as an exporter, for the world.

“We are already major partners in the defence field. We have over the last 20 years has a defence trade that’s over USD 20 billion. And I know our private companies and our governments, our ministries of defence are talking on a regular basis about how we cooperate,” he said.

Lu pointed out that last April during the 2+2 Dialogue involving India’s Minister of Defence, and External Affairs Minister and their American counterparts Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, for the first time there was American support for Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India initiative.

“We can see that India is shifting away from dependency on other countries and looking to produce defence supplies, defence equipment in India itself and that’s a process we strongly support,” he said

“And I hope in the coming months that you will see announcements, a major collaboration between our countries for sophisticated, modern, capable defence equipment that will be made in India,” Lu said.