The United States deploys its finery in India to win defense contracts

India today represents the world's largest market for the export of military equipment. As such, it is courted by all industrialists and players in this industry, from Russia and France, traditional partners for decades, to the United States, which today deploys diplomatic treasures to seduce the authorities. Indians.

Because if the market is indeed attractive, what the United States is looking for is above all an ally capable of countering Chinese demographic power on the Asian continent. However, relations between New Delhi and Beijing are tense, as the episode on the Doklam plateau last summer showed. In addition, China has moved considerably closer to Pakistan, as well as Bangladesh, two countries surrounding India with which relations are explosive.

In fact, the American authorities are ready to make significant efforts to bring New Delhi into their sphere of influence. It is in this context that Lockheed, the American aircraft manufacturer, announced the opening of an F-16 wing production line in India, with the local industrialist Tata. By acting in this way, Lockheed hopes to weigh the balance in its favor when awarding the contract for 110 “light or medium” aircraft. This call for tenders, which the American manufacturer thought was a given, was initially to be open only to light aircraft, and the F16V came in the final against SAAB's JAS39 Gripen. Under pressure from the Indian Air Force General Staff, the competition was extended to higher category aircraft, allowing the Typhoon, Super Hornet and Rafale to participate. Surprisingly, following this decision, the Indian opposition decided to violently attack the contract signed by President Moodi concerning the acquisition of 36 Rafale. It is true that this first contract allows the Dassault device to be presented during the call for tenders without costs of adaptation to specific Indian needs, since these have already been done. 

Furthermore, Lockheed's choice of the industrialist Tata is not insignificant. Indeed, Dassault had refused, during the negotiations concerning the MMRCA contract, to guarantee the proper functioning of the Rafales built in India if they were to be built by Tata, the French manufacturer deeming it incapable of meeting French qualitative requirements.

However, everything is not simple for the United States either. On the one hand because India is very attached to its status as a non-aligned country, allowing it to maintain balanced relations between all the players in global geopolitics. But above all, American industrialists, like the State Department, find themselves trapped by the CAATSA law which threatens sanctions against countries acquiring sensitive defense systems from adversaries of the United States, such as Russia. However, like Turkey, India has entered into planned successful negotiations for the purchase of 6 regiments of Russian S-400 missiles. In fact, to maintain their chances in India, American negotiators must play on the interpretation of texts, which is far from being a solid basis for building a long-term defense industrial partnership. Conversely, the American presidency cannot deviate from such an emblematic text from President Trump, who is also the main arm in arms that opposes him to Erdogan.

Regardless, the Indian issue is still very far from being closed, whether for the Americans, the Russians or the French.

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