Clinton's India trip could net new defense pact

The deal would allow the US to sell India sophisticated military technology, and comes amid US efforts to boost ties with India.

In a move that could buoy United States defense firms and increase India's military might, the US and India are expected to sign a defense pact on Monday. The agreement would set terms for US officials to monitor India's weapons usage and allow the US to sell sophisticated military technology to India, including fighter jets.

If signed, the deal will be one concrete achievement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to India, in which she has worked to strengthen US-Indian relations, meeting with political leaders, students, film stars, business leaders, and others. She also addressed security issues with India's restive neighbor, Pakistan, and how the two countries could work with the US to combat terrorism and extremism.

Under the terms of the agreement, the US would be allowed to conduct "end-use monitoring," meaning it would conduct regular assessments of India's military policies to verify that weapons systems are being used for their intended purposes, reports the Times of India. Such an agreement is required by US law before American companies can legally sell weapons systems to any foreign nation.

The deal would be a tangible accomplishment of [Ms.] Clinton's first trip to India as US Secretary of State and it could prove a boon to US companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

Both US defense contractors are in the running to compete for India's plan to buy 126 multi-role fighters, which would be one of the largest arms deals in the world as India takes steps to modernize its largely Russian-made arsenal.

Before securing the deal though, Lockheed Martin and Boeing must first beat out international rivals, reports Reuters. The Indian military is also reviewing offers that include Russia's MiG-35, France's Dassault Rafale, Sweden's Saab KAS-39 Gripen, and the European Typhoon.

During her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Clinton is said to have also discussed the nation's security situation and India's relations with Pakistan. Following the Mumbai attacks last November, relations have been tense between the two nations. A video dispatch by Asia News International reports that Clinton told reporters that India and the US would work to jointly combat terrorism.

During a speech at Delhi University, Clinton assured students that she has seen a "real commitment" from Pakistani officials to stop terrorism, reports the Indo-Asian News Service. The secretary of state praised both India and Pakistan's willingness to share intelligence about the Mumbai attacks, adding that "we have a very personal and real interest in working with the Pakistani government and with other like-minded countries."

The Washington Post reports that this new military agreement and open talks with India have been the product of nearly two decades of diplomacy from the former US presidents and President Obama.

India and Washington had a long history of antagonism during the Cold War, but a thaw began during the presidency of Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton. Former President George W. Bush built on that foundation by inking landmark civil nuclear agreement with India, and now the Obama administration had made it clear it wants to further deepen ties.

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