'India's rejection of US fighter jets deal blow to Obama
NEW YORK - The United States is "deep disappointed" over India's rejection of Washington's bid to supply a new generation of fighter jets worth nearly $12 billion, but made it clear that the bilateral defence ties would not be affected. We are deeply disappointed by this news but we look forward to continuing to grow and develop our defence partnership with India and remain convinced that the US offers our defence partners around the globe the worlds most advanced and reliable technology, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said. The US, he said, "remain convinced that the United States offers our defence partners around the globe the world's most advanced and reliable technology."
The Indian Defence Ministry has eliminated American aviation companies from the competition to supply India with fighter jets. India also rejected Russian and Swedish aircraft, leaving Britain's Eurofighter and France's Dassault Rafale as the finalists in the contest to fill India's order for 126 planes. The US fighters, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin's F-16, were rejected for what Indian officials describe as failure to meet technical criteria.
At the White House, without referring to the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal, Press Secy Jay Carney said Obama views India-US ties as an anchor to Americas approach in Asia. Carney said the US is committed to deepening its relationship with India and would continue to pursue top priorities with the country.
President Obama has great respect for the Indian people, a close partnership with Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh, and views this relationship as an anchor to our approach in Asia and the promise of the 21st century, he told Press Trust of India News agency.
The New York Times described the decision as a "blow" for President Obama.
In a report from New Delhi, The New York Times described India's decision as "a blow for President (Barack) Obama, who had pushed hard for this and other defence deals during his visit to India in November as part of his agenda to deepen and broaden the United States' relationship with India."
"While political and economic relations between India and the United States have been warming for years, American arms makers have struggled to win big contracts" in New Delhi, it said.
"After decades of frosty relations during the cold war, which pushed India to rely extensively on the Soviet Union for military hardware, many in the Indian defence establishment are still wary of American intentions and United States military aid to Pakistan, India's main adversary," the Times said.
In Washington, Ashley Tellis, a Carnegie Endowment scholar who authored a 140-page report titled "Dogfight" on the India's MRCA decision, said: "There is an acute sense of disappointment in the US government about this decision."
"As best I can tell, the downselect was made entirely on the basis of the technical evaluations - the cost of the aircraft or the strategic considerations did not enter into the picture," he said.
In his report, Tellis, who is of Indian origin, had argued "having an American airplane in the IAF livery would simply be transformative for bilateral defence relations and it would send an important signal about the changing geopolitical dynamics in South Asia."
The Washington Post also said Friday the deal for 126 fighters had been considered a key component of the growing defence partnership between India and the United States, and President Obama had personally advocated on behalf of US companies while visiting India in November.
Indias decision not to accept bids from either of the US companies, Boeing or Lockheed Martin, raised questions about the strength of that relationship, analysts said.
Its hard not to see it having ramifications for the relationship. You had two administrations lobbying very hard with the Indians for what is the fighter jet sale of the 21st century, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
A major hurdle for the United States, Riedel said according to the Post, was its perception in India as an unreliable arms supplier because of past embargoes imposed after various wars and nuclear tests. The jets will constitute more than half of Indias fighter fleet over the next decade.
Experts said there was more at stake in the deal than the sale of jets. Had US companies won the deal, it would have led to closer strategic cooperation: training, jet upgrades, joint military exercises.
At the United Nations, analysts said that the Indian leadership duped President Obama into endorsing India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and he got nothing in return.