Hagel in India to boost ties
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met India's prime minister in Delhi yesterday, seeking to boost weapons sales to a new government eager to modernise its military.
India is the world's biggest arms importer and military trade is high on the agenda for the three-day trip, which comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first official visit to Washington next month.
"The US wants to be a partner in India's military modernisation, and recognises India's need to strengthen their defence-industrial base," Hagel said on his official Twitter account.
Indian officials say they are close to finalising a $1.4 billion deal to buy at least 22 US Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters. The United States is also keen to secure greater military cooperation with India as its seeks to counter growing Chinese firepower in Asia.
During the meeting Modi and Hagel also discussed the situation in Afghanistan.
India has voiced concern about instability in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to withdraw its troops.
Modi told Hagel that a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan was essential for sustaining progress towards peace and stability, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
On Wednesday, the Indian cabinet agreed to increase the limit on foreign direct investment in defence to 49 percent from 26 percent, in a move to attract international capital.
"India has made progress on its direct investment framework on percentage ownership, outside ownership in companies... And we'll talk about that," Hagel said.
New Delhi and Washington have rapidly expanded military ties in recent years despite disagreeing over issues such as the nuclear liability law.
The law says nuclear firms planning to build plants in India must pay large sums in the event of an accident.