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‘Japan ready to give India a fair consideration’ concerns on US-2 amphibian aircraft’

‘Japan ready to give India a fair consideration’ concerns on US-2 amphibian aircraft’ India will be the first country to receive the much sought-after ShinMaywa US-2 amphibian aircraft, capable of taking off from a runway as short as 280 metres. It’s multi-role capability includes search-rescue mission and ocean surveillance. In a freewheeling chat with ShinMaywa Industries India GM, Commodore Abhijit Sinha (retd), BW Businessworld’s Manish Kumar Jha explores the nuances of the $1.65 billion deal and why it has been stuck so far.

Excerpts:

India and Japan have been mulling over the methodology for procuring the amphibian aircraft US-2 for the Indian Navy. What has delayed the purchase?
The process of acquisition of amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy began way back in 2011 when the Indian Navy issued a Request for Information (RFI). Japan’s ShinMaywa Industries responded to the RFI, paving the way for cooperation between India and Japan in defence. The unique capabilities of the US-2 aircraft clearly made it an interesting acquisition. The possibility of procuring the US -2 was discussed at Annual Summit Meetings over the years.

Defence cooperation between India and Japan has till date been limited to the Inter-services Joint Exercise (Malabar, JIMEX etc.), participation in seminars and training courses. However, in recent years bonhomie between the two nations on maritime security, terrorism, threat perception in the IOR and SCS and defence cooperation has increased. Both governments have been cautious in their discussions.

If the US -2 acquisition fructifies, it will be the first military hardware procurement from Japan by India. For Japan, this will be the first sale of military hardware to any Third World country. However, since India and Japan are using the government-to-government route for the first time, the pace understandably has been slow and deliberate.

This aircraft comes with a big price tag, which has been a concern for India. Japan has apparently been assuring India of a ‘fair consideration’ on all issues related to the project, including the cost.

Is ShinMaywa’s collaboration with the Mahindra Group only for the US-2 offsets, or does it go beyond?
ShinMaywa Industries believes in supporting their customers as per their requirement. We have at the moment signed an MoU primarily to set up a MRO facility for US-2 and other associated work, but it can grow much beyond that. We are also open to providing any kind of maintenance support that the Indian Navy or the Ministry of Defence may require from us.

Do you see greater India-Japan defence partnership and more collaboration among their defence industries?
Initiatives taken in the recent past by Tokyo, which include creation of a National Security Council that would serve as the command centre for Japan’s diplomatic and security policies and adoption of a National Security Strategy, are evidence of a paradigm shift in Japan’s security concerns.The new strategy highlights the importance of Japan as a contributor to peace, rather than as a passive player hoping someone else would take care of its defence interests.

Sharing military technology, taboo till recently, has been eased by new principles adopted by Japan. India, being the first to be impacted by Japan’s changed policy will hopefully, benefit in a major way.

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