New Delhi, Nov 8 (PTI) The US-India defence relationship is on a "great track" and this '2+2' foreign and defence ministerial dialogue is a great example of the importance that both sides have placed on further advancing it, a former senior defence official from the United States said on Wednesday.
India and the US will carry out a comprehensive review of their fast-expanding strategic ties at the next edition of the '2+2' foreign and defence ministerial dialogue here on Friday.
Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) under the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, and the US Department of Defence, organised the maiden INDUS-X Investors Meet here on Wednesday as a precursor to the '2+2' Indo-US Ministerial Dialogue.
Joseph H Felter, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for South Asia, and Southeast Asia, while interacting with PTI on the sidelines of the meet here, said, "There is no more important relationship anywhere than the US-India relationship. And the defence relationship has really been a real driver of the broader US-India relationship for some time now." "Since 2016, when India was designated a major defence partner, we went from zero defence trade in 2008 to over USD 20 billion today... So, the US-India defence relationship is really on a great track and this '2+2' is a great example of the significance and importance that both our sides have placed on further advancing that," he said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin are visiting India for the dialogue. The Indian delegation will be led by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
At the Wednesday event, the INDUS-X Educational Series (Gurukul) was also launched. Doug Beck, Director of Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), US DoD, led the US delegation and Vivek Virmani, COO, iDEX-DIO in the Ministry of Defence, led the Indian delegation.
Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework was launched by the government to foster innovation and technology development in the defence and aerospace sector by engaging industries, including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia, and to promote self-reliance.
"Firstly, the intent of iDEX is to connect our start-ups and the MSMEs which constitute a majority part of our industry with the military and help the military to take solutions from the start-ups and the MSMEs, which are innovative, and can help them in solving their problems, and helping the county become self-reliant in the longer run," Virmani told PTI on the sidelines of the event.
"To this effect, we already had a lot of interactions with start-ups over the last five years and we have signed almost 300 iDEX agreements. iDEX agreements are meant to give grants to start-ups to help them make products which the Services require," he said.
Based on these agreements, several cases have materialised into procurement orders by the Services and this has led to a great boost to the Indian industry in the defence arena, Virmani said.
It has given "a lot of credibility to the iDEX brand" and made people and start-ups believe that there can be "shorter turnaround time and faster return on investment in defence also", he said.
The first INDUS-X coincided with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US earlier this year. The joint declaration during the visit included a mention of INDUS-X, he said.
Again, during the G20, when the US President had come, the joint declaration had a mention of INDUS X and iDEX. So, it is only natural that '2+2' will have some discussion or mention of iDEX and INDUS-X, Virmani added.
India-US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) was launched in June 2023 during the State Visit of PM Modi to the US to expand strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between governments, businesses, and academic institutions of India and the US, the defence ministry said in a statement.
INDUS X will be a defence innovation bridge which would inter-alia include joint challenges, joint innovation fund, academia engagement, industry-startup connect, investment by private entities in defence projects, mentoring by experts and niche technology projects, among others, it said. PTI KND NSD NSD