“The quality of European airplanes today – for that matter the Russians, too – has now reached a point where countries like India really do have choices,” says Ashley Tellis, author of a study on the jet fighter tender for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “In that sense, [US] political choices are more constrained than they were before.”
Retired Indian generals and industry analysts say Indian officials have two reservations about buying American.
First, New Delhi worries about relying on US parts given the sanctions Washington imposed in 1998 when India went nuclear. In case of a war with archrival Pakistan – a US strategic ally – would Washington curtail military trade again?
Second, US law requires defense agreements to be signed by any country purchasing certain high-tech military equipment. The US failed during Obama’s visit last year to get Indian sign-off on two such agreements: the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), and the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMoA).
According to Mr. Tellis, the CISMoA would keep India from transferring sensitive US encryption technology to another country. The BECA, meanwhile, has been misunderstood as a deal that would plot Indian military units on a global grid visible to the US and its partners.