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02:14 AM, December 11, 2017
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US-India Business Council (Image for representation: Economic Times)

The US-India Business Council (USIBC) along with US defense firms wants the Indian government to formulate a framework to ensure safety and security of critical technology and classified defense information shared by them with Indian partners.

“A government-to-government agreement to facilitate the transfer of classified defence technology and information to the Indian private sector besides clarity on issues relating to liability, intellectual property rights and industrial safety must be provided,” Benjamin Schwartz, Senior Director for Defense and Aerospace at the Washington-based USIBC said on Sunday.

"US companies are willing to ensure transfer of critical technology to India but the Indian government has to ensure protection of critical and classified technology," Schwartz said during an interview with PTI.

Under the existing framework, US companies can share classified information and technology with India’s public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and not with the private sector, Schwartz said.

"Right now, there is no mechanism in place to allow the US companies to extend classified information to private Indian industries," he said, adding it was for New Delhi to initiate the process for a government-to-government agreement to remove the hurdle. The USIBC has been playing a pro-active role in forging greater collaboration between Indian and American defence industries.

Holding that the American industry was very supportive of India's strategic partnership model, he said the Indian government needed to come out with a timeline for various acquisition programmes, besides establishing a framework for the safety of classified information and technology.

"They need to establish procedures to ensure security of defence technology here.

What I mean by it is that the reality in India and also in the US and around the world is that information is being stolen...We have to set up procedures to make sure that our defence technology is secure (in India)," he said.

"We held extensive conversations with the US government on technology transfer. We are very pleased that there has been a lot of continuity in US policy. The Trump administration wants to continue to prioritise technology release to India. It is also going to be re-articulated in US law this year," he said.

Schwartz said the USIBC supports Modi government's policy initiative to ensure a level playing field for the DPSUs and India's private sector defence industry.

"We can help support this through an agreement that will allow us to share classified information with the private sector industry," he said.

A number of American defence giants including Boeing and Lockheed Martin are eyeing billions of dollars of contracts in India and have already offered to manufacture some of their key military platforms in India while forging joint ventures with Indian companies.

Schwartz said liability issues, intellectual property rights issues and industrial security procedures are some of the key areas the US firms want clarity on.

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