How does it help India to be the ‘major defence partner’ of US?

India, US Finalise Defence Agreement


Taking bilateral security ties to a new high between India and the United States (US), the latter, on Thursday, December 8, 2016, designated former as its “major defence partner”, according to IANS as reported by The Statesman. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and United States Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter finalised the designation of India as a Major Defence Partner of the US during Carter’s visit to New Delhi. This was the seventh meeting between Parrikar and Carter.

“Today we finalized India’s designation as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the US. The designation as a Major Defence Partner is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of US’s closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation in the future,” stated a joint statement after the meeting.

What is Major Defense Partner?

The status of being a Major Defence Partner will give India access to military technology of the US, with the promise of an enduring cooperation from the latter in the future. It also implies that there will be no export hurdles of high-tech US military hardware and technology to India. The country will now be treated at par with America’s closest allies where defence-related trade and technology transfer is concerned. This includes access to 99% of the US defence technologies.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Washington in June the White House issued a statement hailing the ascending relationship between the two major democracies under the Press Release ‘The United States and India: Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century’.  As per the press release, there are two dimensions to the Status of India as a Major Defence Partner of America. They include:

  • America will facilitate technology sharing with India in commensuration with that of its closest allies. India would receive license-free access to a wide range of dual-use technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.
  • America will also extend support to India in its ‘Make in India’ campaign towards development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain by facilitating the export of goods and technologies.

During his visit to the Pentagon in August, Parrikar had given a non-paper (a proposed agreement or negotiating text circulated informally among delegations for discussion) to Carter. Negotiations were done between the two countries to arrive at the exact contours of the designation. The differences regarding the level of technology transfer were sorted and a formal agreement arrived at on Thursday.

While India wanted benefits similar to that of allies of the US, such as Australia and the UK, the Pentagon was hesitant to concede. On Thursday, the two sides did not specify details of the benefits that will accrue to India under the designation.

The status of India as a Major Defence Partner has been made a part of the India Amendment in the National Defence Authorization Act, 2017 (NDAA), approved by the US Congress to allocate funds annually to the US military. This Bill is expected to be passed shortly which will put a formal, official stamp on India’s status. Under the India Amendment in the NDAA 2017, India will benefit in the following ways:

  • The US government will, consistent with its conventional arms transfer policy, inform the review of requests to export defence articles, defence services, or related technology to India under the Arms Export Control Act, and inform any regulatory and policy adjustments that may be appropriate.
  • An American official will be designated to ensure the success of the Framework of the pact including approval and facilitation of the transfer of advanced technology, and to strengthen the effectiveness of the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative and the durability of the India Rapid Reaction Cell in Pentagon.

While there were concerns that the Trump administration would not agree to the India-specific provisions of the agreement, once the India Amendment is passed, the new government will be obligated to adhere to the commitments.


Becoming a Major Defence Partner to the Unites States is indeed very good news for India not only in terms of procuring high-end defence technology, but also in terms of the support of the most powerful country in the world in its fight against terrorism. Carter during his visit this time also met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed bilateral issues with him.

A statement released by the government said that both the countries have agreed to continue further strengthening of the bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation and underlined the need to ensure that terror groups receive no patronage from any State.

The two nations have common values and shared desire for peace and prosperity in Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region and countering terrorism is an important objective shared by India and the United States. The convergence of interests will help India’s efforts to eliminate extremism in its neighbourhood.


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