NEW DELHI --- A decade ago, U.S. arms sales to India amounted to virtually nothing. Today, the United States is the second-largest arms supplier to India, and U.S. officials say they hope to increase that business.
Army Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, spoke to reporters while traveling to India with Defense Secretary James N. Mattis. His agency is responsible for foreign military sales.
India is modernizing its military and the United States would like to compete for those sales, he said. "There are four values that govern our relationship with India, and our relationship with all our partners: ... transparency, responsiveness, integrity and commitment," the general said.
Transparency means the agency shares all the information about systems and associated costs with its partners. This allows other nations to make informed decisions on the types of capabilities they need.
"We're very confident that, when given all of the information that they need, they'll choose American systems and American services," Hooper said.
Responsiveness is another key. The general stays in constant touch with his partners. In India's case that is the director general for acquisition. "Every time I see him, I provide him with a spreadsheet that updates ... the status of all of our systems," Hooper said. "And we have discussions on how we can better strengthen the partnership."
Integrity is a key value that separates the U.S. approach to security cooperation from others, he said.
"Integrity means, quite simply, our books are always open," Hooper said. "We don't charge one penny more than we have to for the finest systems and the finest services in the world. The books are always open, and we can account for every penny that our partners spend."
The U.S. is committed to providing goods and services at the point of sale, and to forging and strengthening a long-term relationship, the general said.
"We found that when we follow those four values with our Indian partners, it helps to support, to strengthen that relationship," he said.
Hooper cannot comment on possible sales to India, but he said he believes that no matter the domain, any U.S. system would bring enormous capabilities and be economically competitive. "What I can say is, I expect some very fruitful discussions," he said. "All of our systems are the best in the world, and I'm sure are very competitive to suit and meet the requirements of our Indian partners."
India has already bought U.S. C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. One aspect of the current U.S.-Indian talks is the communications compatibility and security agreement. Once signed, a much larger range of U.S. weapons systems would be available to India.
Over the years, first the Soviet Union and then Russia were the largest arms suppliers to India. Russia remains the biggest supplier, mainly because of contracts for legacy systems.
"We're confident that when our partners take a look at the capabilities that we're offering as opposed to whatever capabilities they previously been committed to, that ... U.S. capabilities will stand head-and-shoulders above all of them and will become the selection of choice, and we will become their partner of choice," Hooper said.