US defense firms want control over tech in Make-in-India plan
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U.S. defense firms offering to set up production lines in India to win deals worth billions of dollars want stronger assurances they won’t have to part with proprietary technology, according to a business lobby group’s letter to India’s defense minister.
These companies are also saying they shouldn’t be held liable for defects in products manufactured in collaboration with local partners under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India’s drive to build a military industrial base.
Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Boeing (BA.N) are both bidding to supply combat jets to India’s military, which is running short of hundreds of aircraft as it retires Soviet-era MiG planes, and its own three-decade long effort to produce a domestic jet is hobbled by delays.
Lockheed has offered to shift its F-16 production line to India from Fort Worth, Texas, and make it the sole factory worldwide if India orders at least 100 single-engine fighters.
The U.S. firm has picked Tata Advanced Systems as its local partner under the defense ministry’s new Strategic Partnership model under which foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can hold up to a 49 percent stake in a joint venture with an Indian private firm which will hold the majority of shares.
The US-India Business Council (USIBC) wrote to India’s defense minister last month seeking a guarantee that U.S. firms would retain control over sensitive technology - even as joint venture junior partners.
“Control of proprietary technologies is a major consideration for all companies exploring public and private defense partnerships,” the business lobby, which represents 400 firms, said in the Aug. 3 letter, reviewed by Reuters and previously unreported.
“To allow foreign OEMs to provide the most advanced technologies, the partnership arrangement between an Indian owned ‘strategic partner’ company and a foreign OEM needs to provide an opportunity for the foreign OEM to retain control over its proprietary technology,” it said, noting this wasn’t explicit in the policy document.
TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
Technology transfer is at the heart of Modi’s drive to build a domestic industrial base and cut a reliance on imports that has made India the world’s biggest arms importer in recent years.
Without full tech transfer in previous arms deals, India’s mainly state-run defense factories have largely been left to assemble knock-down kits even for tanks and aircraft produced under license from the foreign maker.
Modi’s advisers have vowed to change that, insisting on transfer of technology so that critical military equipment are designed and manufactured in India.