New Delhi: A rail and port deal involving the US, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel, besides key defence deals under negotiations like the MQ-9 armed drones and jet engine technology, as well as collaboration in 5G and 6G technology, tops the agenda of visiting American President Joe Biden for the G20 Summit, ThePrint has learnt.
The summit in Delhi, being held under India’s presidency this weekend, will see leaders of the countries that make up the intergovernmental forum being present in the national capital.
Government sources told ThePrint that while no actual contracts are to be signed, key Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) are likely to be inked after talks between Modi and Biden.
While a number of issues are under discussion, a key focus area for the US is the finalisation of a joint infrastructure deal that will involve not just India and the US but also Saudi Arabia, Turkey and possibly Israel.
This deal, which could be announced during the summit, will reshape the trade route between the Gulf and South Asia, linking Middle Eastern countries by railways and connecting to India by port.
This project is being spearheaded by the US as a counter to China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure push, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
In an interaction with the media on board the Air Force One late Thursday night, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who is accompanying Biden to India, said he can’t confirm whether a deal would be inked or not.
However, he said that this is an initiative “that we have invested effort into with our partners”.
He added, “We believe that connectivity from India, across the Middle East, to Europe is incredibly important and will bring a significant number of economic benefits, as well as strategic benefits, to all of the countries involved. But where things land with respect to any potential announcements this weekend, as opposed to down the line, I can’t say tonight”.
Talking about other agenda points, Sullivan said Biden will be meeting with Modi and it will be an opportunity to follow up on the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States.
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‘Collaboration on critical and emerging technologies’
Talking about the meeting between Modi and Biden, Sullivan said, “And we will see meaningful progress on a number of issues, including the GE jet engine issue, the MQ-9 Reapers, on 5G/6G, on collaboration on critical and emerging technologies, and progress also in the civil nuclear area as well.”
He added: “So, we will mark all of that progress when the two of them meet tomorrow [Friday], which shows the breadth of the relationship between our countries. Of course, President Biden will also speak on critical, fundamental values that the United States stands for, as he does in all of his engagements”.
During his visit to the US in June this year, Modi and Biden had firmed up a joint production plan for the jet engine, as well as the as assembly of) the assembly of MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones in India to Artemis Accord — that allows joint safe exploration of Moon and Mars.
As reported by ThePrint previously, American firm General Electric and India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have signed an MoU to jointly produce fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force (IAF) with “significant amount of transfer of technology and work being done indigenously”.
The deal could eventually end India’s quest since the 1960s to manufacture its own jet engine. While a number of countries, including India, make their own fighter aircraft, the technology of engine manufacturing has been aced by only a select few.
Another key development is the plan by India to procure 31 HALE drones, MQ-9B, from the US to beef up surveillance and attack capability of the Indian Navy, Army and the IAF.
The MQ-9Bs will be assembled in India and General Atomics will also establish a Comprehensive Global MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility in India to support its long-term goals to boost indigenous defence capabilities.
The American firm has a tie-up with India’s Bharat Forge, part of the Kalyani Group, for its drone business.
As reported by ThePrint, the Navy will get 15 MQ-9B drones in maritime and anti-submarine warfare kits, while the Army and the Indian Air Force will get eight each of the land version.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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