India’s government has requested nearly 130 medium caliber firearms from the U.S. military to bolster the Indian Navy’s forces amid a growing Indo-Pacific regional threat posed by China.
“India has issued a Letter of Request to the US government for acquiring 11 127 mm medium caliber guns which are to be equipped on the large-size warships of the Indian Navy including the Visakhapatnam-class destroyers,” Asian News International (ANI) reported on Wednesday.
The Visakhapatnam are stealth guided-missile destroyers currently under construction for the Indian Navy.
“Military ties between Indian and American defense forces are growing further in the middle of a conflict with China as the US Navy would be providing three 127 medium caliber guns from its own inventory to urgently equip warships of the Indian Navy as part of a Rs 3,800 crore [about $520,000] deal,” according to the report.
Should the deal come to fruition, the U.S. Navy’s medium caliber guns would be new additions to the Indian Navy “and would be an upgrade on the existing weapons of a similar class in the maritime force,” ANI noted.
“India and America are also discussing the possibility of a sale of F/A 18 fighter planes and they were offered by the American government during the recent two plus two meetings between the two countries,” the Indian news agency added, citing Indian government sources.
The U.S. and India held their third annual “2+2” ministerial dialogue on October 27. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar in New Delhi, India, for the talks.
“The United States will stand with the people of India as they confront threats to their freedom and sovereignty,” Pompeo said at the meeting.
The U.S. secretary of state referred to threats posed by China, which has been engaged in a border standoff with India along their unmarked Himalayan boundary since last summer. The border conflict has highlighted ongoing diplomatic and economic tensions between the two Asian giants. Over the past several months, New Delhi has banned hundreds of Chinese-owned smartphone apps citing national security concerns and has launched campaigns to decrease India’s reliance on China for trade and manufacturing.
“Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation — the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Pompeo said at the “2+2” meeting in New Delhi in late October.
The U.S., India, Japan, and Australia on November 17 launched the second phase of a joint “Malabar 2020” naval drill in the northern Arabian Sea. Observers view the coordinated military exercise as a regional deterrent to China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.