`US to expand military ties with India, no decision on F-35`
Washington: The US is looking forward to expand its military ties with India including a potential sale of the F-35 fighter aircraft, though no decision have been made so far, a top State Department official said.
"We have made tremendous progress in the defence trade relationship. Now we`re at USD 8 billion, we think there`s going to be billion dollars more in the next couple of years," said Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
When asked about a potential sale of the fifth generation F-35 stealth fighter aircrafts to India, he said that there might also be down the road some potential for it, but certainly no decision has been made regarding that.
It was earlier speculated that the US might offer the famed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to India, following India`s rejection of the F/A-18 and F-16 fighters in the multi-million dollar MMRCA deal.
"So we are on track," Shapiro told reporters in response to a question at the Washington Foreign Press Center.
He added that the Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter is heading up a defence trade initiative with India, which the US believes is making some good progress and will, hopefully, lead to even a greater pace of additional defence trade with India.
Last year, Shapiro had led the US delegation for the first ever political-military dialogue with India in six years.
"It was significant because we were able to help our Indian counterparts work through the challenges of inter agency cooperation on national security issues," said Shapiro.
"Indian officials` have remarked that this dialogue is especially helpful in helping coordinate between the various interagency partners in India," he added.
Responding to question on news reports that India might reopen its multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal, he said the American companies would have to consider if they want to participate in it.
"I wouldn`t say we were kicked out (of the fighter jet deal). I would say there was a selection process where they made a determination to down select to the two and eventually to select the Rafale," he said.
"I have been reading in the Indian press various rumors about that transaction. We have no official communication from the Indian government and obviously if there was a reopening, US companies would have to consider whether they want to participate," Shapiro added.
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