As the US is heading towards a momentous Presidential Election, India has decided not to purchase F-16 fighter aircraft from America.
Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently said that New Delhi rejected the US offer due to certain reasons. According to the minister, the Narendra Modi government dismissed the proposal made by Lockheed Martin Corporation to manufacture F-16 jets in India despite aggressive lobbying by the American company, as the Indian Air Force (IAF) has no immediate plan to induct F-16.
When a lawmaker suggested in Lower House of the Parliament that Indian fighter pilots should get first-hand experience of flying F-16s during the ongoing Red Flag joint exercise in Alaska, Parrikar told the House that the exercise would help IAF pilots counter enemy planes, like the F-16. “During the exercise, we are getting very crucial important data about flying against aircraft which are there in the stockpile of our adversaries. So, we actually learn how to counter them,” stressed the minister.
Although Parrikar admitted that Lockheed Martin made desperate attempts to sell F-16 jets to India, he made clear that Indian companies would not be allowed to team up with the American defence firm for manufacturing fighter jets. During their meeting with senior Lockheed Martin representatives in New Delhi earlier this month, Indian Defence Ministry officials said that there was no possibility of setting up the final assembly line in the South Asian country. Also, Lockheed Martin has not been allowed to participate in the ‘Make in India’ project.
Earlier this year, the defence minister announced that India would invite foreign companies to set up fighter jet manufacturing units in the country under Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. However, Parrikar has surprised Washington by rejecting Lockheed Martin’s offer to manufacture F-16 jets in India. Defence experts believe that New Delhi has made the volte-face due to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s growing popularity in the US. As front-runner Trump has tightened his grip on the Republican presidential nomination, India plans to wait for the outcome of Presidential Election before allowing an American company to manufacture F16s in the country.
New Delhi has also started monitoring Trump’s election speeches since the Republican presidential hopeful declared that “India is the check to Pakistan”. On a recent American radio show, Trump called Pakistan “probably the most dangerous” country in the world, saying that the only country that could “check” Pakistan is India. He also said that Pakistan is “a serious problem” because they have nuclear weapons. India is of the opinion that such comments are sensitive as far as international diplomacy is concerned. As the Modi administration is not ready to allow Trump to use India as a ‘trump card’ against Pakistan, it plans to chart future course of bilateral ties only after the November 8 Presidential Poll.