(CNSNews.com) - Shaking off decades of Cold War differences and a freeze on hi-tech transfers, the United States has concluded a deal with India to sell it eight gun-locating radars valued at $146 million.
Former Indian Air Force Squadron Leader L.K. Bakshi termed the deal as a significant step in the growing military relationship between the world's two largest democracies.
The U.S. Defense Department described the sale as a "historic move" that marked an improvement in bilateral ties.
Coming at a time when India-Pakistan relations are at their lowest ebb, with tension along the border, the deal marks a new strategy by the United States for the South Asian region, according to defense analyst M.K. Laul.
Under the deal, the U.S. would supply India with eight Raytheon long-range weapon-locating radars.
India, which has fought three border wars with Pakistan since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and one with China in 1962, has traditionally shopped for weapons in Russia, Britain and France.
The agreement was signed on Wednesday following talks between India's newly established Security Cooperation Group (SCG) and the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
India formed the SCG to deal exclusively with purchase of arms from the United States. Officials said India would be buying several items from the U.S. and some of them are now in various stages of clearance.
The gun locating radar, known as the AN/TPQ-37 fire-locating radar, was a priority on India's shopping list. India felt the absence of such a weapon when it launched operations in the Kargil hills of Kashmir in response to a Pakistani intrusion two years ago, Bakshi said.
Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. will supply eight counter-battery AN/TPQ-37 radar systems plus advanced communications and support equipment, training and logistics services.
A former Indian military official who has served in the Indian embassy at Washington, Air Commodore Bobb, explained that the radar sets are designed to pinpoint long-range mortars, artillery and rocket launchers after tracking a shell for only a few seconds. The system then relays precise information for counterfire, tracking, correcting and improving the counter-barrage as it is under way.
Laul pointed out that the acquisition of the radars now puts India on an even footing with Pakistan, which already has the equipment.
Indo-U.S. military cooperation in the last four decades has been virtually negligible. The last time India and the U.S. cooperated was during the Gulf War in the early nineties when India allowed U.S. cargo planes to refuel in its territory.
After September 11, however, India and the U.S. have moved even closer, and several high ranking visits of military officials have taken place. The U.S. Defense Secretary and the Indian Defense Minister also have exchanged visits.
The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield is scheduled to visit India next week to build on the growing strategic ties between the two countries.
The Indian Chief of Army Staff S. Padmanabhan also plans to visit the U.S. at the invitation of Washington.