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Opportunities Abound: India has to take the lead with Argentina in the Defence Sector

Huma Siddiqui
india argentina ties, Defence Sector, Mauricio Macri, Indian Air Force, NATO, Chinese P18 corvettes

Leaders of Argentina and India will meet next month in New Delhi. This time their focus will be on defence cooperation as well. Accompanied by a high level ministerial and business delegation, President Mauricio Macri will be on a three-day visit to India from February 17 to 19. Amongst several MoUs that are in various stages of finalization on both sides, there will be a Framework Agreement in the Defence Sector.

In an exclusive interaction with the Financial Express Online, Daniel Chuburu, Ambassador of Argentina to India Confirming that several important MoUs and agreements are expected to be inked in the presence of the two leaders and said, The Framework Agreement in the Defence is very broad in nature and will be covering issues related to the exchange of officers, training of armed forces personnel and cooperation in joint ventures for military equipment and peacekeeping operations. Argentina has increased its participation in peacekeeping operations as opposed to conventional combat.

Diplomatic sources confirmed to the Financial Express Online that top defence manufacturers from Argentina are keen to work with Indian companies. And during the meeting between the two leaders, both sides are likely to encourage their respective business enterprises to enter into arrangements for co-development and co-production of defence equipment in India, including the transfer of know-how and technologies.

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There is no shortage of opportunities for India and Argentina to work together. It has a well-developed indigenous defence industrial base and there is significant scope for opportunities for both sides to work trainer aircraft, transport aircraft, submarines, and small arms.

In fact, as the Indian Air Force has expressed the need for an Intermediate Jet Trainer, the Argentine IA-63 Pampa-II could offer an opportunity for joint development.

Argentina’s top defence companies are Fabrica Argentina de Aviones, Astillero Ro Santiago, CITEDEF, INVAP SE, Tandanor and Direccion General de Fabricaciones Militares. Over the decades, through a combination of licensed production of foreign designs and some indigenous research and development, these companies have produced the TAM medium tank, the Pucara combat aircraft, the Pampa jet trainer and the MEKO 140A16 corvette.

The combination of trained personnel and domestic arms production capability augurs well for the recovery of Argentina s military, provided sufficient funds are made available to meet urgent requirements. It is however poignant to see a military that dared to challenge a NATO member in battle now reduced to relative impotence,” Sanjay Badri-Maharaj, Independent Defence Analyst and Security Consultant has stated in a commentary for the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in 2016.

There is a great opportunity for the Indian defence sector to join hands with Argentina points out Badri-Maharaj. According to him There is a lot of scope for defence cooperation between Argentina and India. There is scope for joint production, joint development, and maintenance support and overhaul capabilities. Argentina is in desperate need of defense overhauls and modernization. This is particularly the case with its Air Force. Argentina already has a reasonably strong defense production base and reasonably good military infrastructure. If India’s state and private companies can tie up with their counterparts in Argentina, it could be that at least, to some limited extent, can assist them in this regard. What India cannot do, is to see this arrangement as purely transactional.

India has to think ahead. It may be that Indian might wish to gift to Argentina some decommissioned but still serviceable military equipment along with the spares and support to maintain them. In addition, there is scope for Argentine shipyards to build Indian designs for patrol boats and small warships while Indian artillery and maybe internal security armored vehicles might find a market in Argentina, Badri-Maharaj added.

There is a lot of scope for cooperation but it would require India to think beyond transactional arrangements and look to build deep cooperation with Argentina which would involve some give-and-take.

Argentina s Mirage fighters were decommissioned in 2015, creating a gap for fighter aircraft. The army has expressed interest in ordering 20 units of either J-20 or JF-17/FC-10 Thunder aircraft, while the Navy plans to acquire five units of Chinese P18 corvettes. With the country facing economic turmoil, the procurement decision has been deferred, apparently for good.

In the interim, Argentina is looking for bargains to restore its military. With a little bit of innovative thinking, India and Argentina can cooperate to the mutual benefit of both countries.