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West Asia, weapon deals on agenda at India-US NSA meet

Source : Hindustan Times

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his visiting US counterpart Jake Sullivan will discuss the deteriorating environment in West Asia with Iran-backed Houthis playing havoc on commercial shipping in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza even as both sides will review the US GE-414 engine technology transfer deal and the Predator MQ9B drone acquisition by the Indian armed forces.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan (ANI)(HT_PRINT) National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan (ANI)(HT_PRINT)

US NSA Jake Sullivan will be in Delhi later this month with two NSA-level dialogues taking place on February 20-21, including the second round on the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET). Both the manufacturing of GE-414 through 100% technology transfer to India and the acquisition of 31 MQ 9B armed drones have been notified by the US State department with commercial negotiations to start between GE and HAL soon, HT learns.

The Modi government is clarifying some points posed by the US Congress, people familiar with the matter said. The draft Letter of Acceptance for MQ 9B Predator drones has been placed before the US Congress and the final LOA will be issued after the mandatory 30-day period. The two will be part of an agenda of at least 25 points to be discussed by Doval and Sullivan, the people added. The visiting US NSA will also meet foreign minister S Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from other senior officials.

The key item on agenda will be the Israel war on Gaza and the targeting of commercial sea lanes of communication by Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels using missiles, loitering ammunition and drones in the Red Sea and off the Gulf of Aden. India’s position on the ongoing war in Gaza is that the October 7, 2023 incident was a terrorist attack by Hamas but that the humanitarian aspects of Israel’s war on Gaza since are worrying. New Delhi is also concerned about the fallout. It does not want Houthis to target commercial shipping including Indian container vessels and tankers and has responded to the challenge by deploying 10 ships from Bab el-Mandeb in Red Sea across the entire Arabian sea in order to secure the sea lanes of communication. Indian warships with the help of surveillance drones and P8I multi-mission aircraft have also been protecting commercial vessels from Somalian pirates, with global shipping and logistics companies losing millions of dollars by coming around the Cape of Good Hope to the Arabian Sea rather than through the Suez Canal.

Discussions between the two NSAs on the situation in West Asia will also focus on the role played by Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and in Gaza, even though Tehran has told India it had no prior information on the October 7 attacks and that it has minimum control over Islamic militias such as Hamas or Houthis. With groups such as Kaitab Hezbollah targeting US assets in Jordan and Hezbollah hitting Israel, the conflagration in West Asia can erupt at any time and destabilize the world.

The two NSAs, the people cited above said, will also discuss the Chinese role in the Indo-Pacific, with the PLA Navy on an expansion mode and looking for more bases in the region using the Belt-Road Initiative as leverage with smaller nations from Solomon Islands to Maldives. The other important topic of conversation will be terrorism emanating from the Af-Pak arc and rise of insurgent groups within Pakistan.

Apart from reviewing technology sharing on AI, quantum computing and clean energy, Doval and Sullivan will be pushing to further cement India-US ties, the people added. s



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