The US India Business Council (USIBC), an American business advocacy group, has written a letter to India’s defense minister stating that the US defense firms offering to set up production line in India are unwilling to part with sensitive aircraft technology – even as joint venture junior partners.
“Control of proprietary technologies is a major consideration for all companies exploring public and private defence partnerships,” the business lobby, which represents 400 firms, said in the August 3 letter, reviewed by Reuters and previously unreported.
“To allow foreign OEMs to provide the most advanced technologies, the partnership arrangement between an Indian owned ‘strategic partner’ company and a foreign OEM needs to provide an opportunity for the foreign OEM to retain control over its proprietary technology,” it said, noting this wasn’t explicit in the policy document.
The USIBC opposed a clause in the new rules that held foreign firms jointly responsible for the quality of the platforms provided to the military, saying legal liability is a significant factor in business decisions.
“We recommend the MoD (Ministry of Defence) affirm that foreign OEMs will not be liable for defects outside their company’s control,” the USIBC said.
But an official, referring to sensitive technology, said the government has made clear in the past that foreign firms can be allowed to increase their stake beyond 49 percent if the technology they bring in is state-of-the art.
India’s defence ministry offered no response to the concerns expressed by the trade lobbying group on the strategic partnership model, which will also apply to building submarines and helicopters as part of a $150 billion modernisation drive.
US Aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing are both bidding to supply combat jets to India’s military, which is running short of hundreds of aircraft as it retires Soviet-era MiG planes.
Lockheed has offered to shift its F-16 production line to India from Fort Worth, Texas, and make it the sole factory worldwide if India orders at least 100 single-engine fighters.