INDUS-X 2024 marks a new high in India-US defense industry cooperation

Indian Army soldiers from the 7th Battalion, the Madras Regiment, and U.S. Army paratroopers from the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, pause for a group photograph after conducting joint rappel training during exercise Yudh Abhyas 21 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 21, 2021. Yudh Abhyas is a bilateral training exercise aimed at improving the combined interoperability of the Indian Army and US Army Alaska to increase partner capacity for conventional, complex and future contingencies throughout the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña

Organized by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) under the Department of Defence Production of India’s Ministry of Defence, and the Department of Defense (DoD), United States, in conjunction with the U.S.-India Business Council and Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), the much anticipated INDUS-X Summit, held on February 20-21, 2024 in New Delhi, turned out to be a key event converging strategic technology partnerships and defense industrial cooperation between India and the USA.

It was during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2023 state visit to the US that the India-US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) was launched with the aim of expanding bilateral ties in defense innovation. The two-day INDUS-X 2024 summit was packed with activities designed to foster collaboration, innovation, and knowledge exchange. From panel discussions and workshops to senior leaders’ forums and joint challenge winner felicitations, there were insightful sessions aimed at charting the future trajectory of U.S.-India defense relations. Defense innovation stakeholders from across governments, academic and research organizations, investors, defense start-ups, technology incubators, industry associations, and other start-up enablers came together to develop ambitious initiatives to drive INDUS-X forward.

The summit underlined the critical role India and the US play as key partners in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Discussions centred on co-producing advanced military capabilities, strengthening defense supply chains, and enhancing interoperability to address shared security challenges.

Emphasis was placed on fostering innovation in defense technologies through collaborative efforts between Indian and American industries. The summit provided a platform for startups and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the defense sector to engage with established players, facilitating knowledge exchange and partnerships.

The summit highlighted the strong defense partnership between India and the US, citing initiatives on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) aimed at fostering innovation across critical sectors, including defense

The summit emphasized the crucial role of technological innovation in defence within the broader context of the US-India Strategic Partnership, fostering collective progress for defense industries across borders.

Scene from 18th edition of #YudhAbhyas. “Joint military exercise like Yudh Abhyas reinforces our commitment to the #IndoPacific region, improves interoperability, and takes the #USIndiaDefense partnership to new heights!” says a post on US Embassy in India X @U.S. Embassy India.

A look back at some events and background information is relevant. Launched in 2018 as the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Defence iDEX is funded and managed by the Defence Innovation Organization (DIO) and established as a ‘not-for-profit’ company under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013. iDEX, aims to foster innovation and technology development in the Defense and Aerospace sector. It provides grants, funding, and other support to carry out research and development projects with potential for future adoption in Indian defense and aerospace needs. It is currently engaged with around 400+ Startups and MSMEs. Recognized as a game-changer in the defense ecosystem, iDEX has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Innovation in the defense sector.

The foundation of India-US defense cooperation lies in the “New Framework for India-US Defense Cooperation,” renewed for a decade in 2015. In 2016, the partnership was upgraded to a Major Defence Partnership (MDP). India’s elevation to Tier-1 status under the US Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorization license exception occurred in July 2018.

Institutionalized Dialogue Mechanisms:

The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, involving the Ministers of External Affairs and Defence from both nations along with their US counterparts, serves as the apex platform for addressing political, military, and strategic issues. The 5th Edition of the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue took place in November 2023 in New Delhi. Defence Policy Group led by the Defence Secretary and Under Secretary of Defence (Policy), facilitates a comprehensive review of defense dialogues and mechanisms. The 17th DPG was convened in Washington D.C. in May 2023.

California National Guard welcoming India’s General Manoj Pande Feb. 16, 2024. PHOTO: X @CalGuard

Defense procurements and platforms

Defense procurements from the US are on the rise, amounting to nearly US$20 billion.

Key US-origin platforms in use by India include Apache, Chinook, MH60R helicopters, and P8I aircraft. Recently, the US State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale of 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian, the next generation of remotely piloted aircraft systems, delivering persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to India.

Important defense agreements

Significant agreements include Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (2016), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (2018), Industrial Security Agreement (2019), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (2020), and Memorandum of Intent for Defence Innovation Cooperation (2018).

Military-to-military exchanges

High-level visits, exercises, training courses, and service-specific bilateral mechanisms facilitate military-to-military exchanges. India participates in a growing number of military exercises with the US, including Yudh Abhyas, Vajra Prahar, Malabar, Cope India, and Tiger Triumph, among others. Participation in multilateral exercises like Red Flag, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), CUTLASS Express, Sea Dragon, and Milan further strengthens cooperation. INS Satpura marked the first Indian naval ship to visit the US mainland as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav in August 2022 (75th Anniversary of India’s Independence). India joined the multilateral Combined Maritime Force based in Bahrain as an Associate Partner in April 2022.

Speaking at the second edition of INDUS-X summit, India’s Defence Secretary Girdhar Armane emphasized the need for a India-US operational information-sharing paradigm for the larger Indo Pacific region.

“Today, we are witnessing a pivotal moment in the history of the Indo-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific, with its vast expanse of oceans and strategic waterways, stands as the crossroad of global commerce, geopolitics, and security. In navigating the complex dynamics of this region, India and the United States find themselves as key stakeholders, bound by shared values and common interests…….Our bilateral relationship is flourishing, with India increasingly turning to the United States for cutting-edge equipment and technology. The United States, in turn, sees India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy, leveraging India’s growing defence capabilities,” said Armane.

China reference

The Q & A session with the media at the end of the summit made quite a bit of exciting news with the Defence Secretary’s reportedly pointed remarks about China. “India is giving a face-off to our (northern) neighbour in almost all the fronts we have with them……..we are standing against a bully in a very determined fashion. And we expect that our friend, the U.S., will be there with us in case we need their support,” Aramane is reported to have said in the presence of US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino.

Defence Secretary Armane also surprised the gathering by reportedly confirming that the US assisted India during the May-June 2020 standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh with local intelligence and situation awareness with sophisticated surveillance equipment.

Touching on maritime affairs, Armane called for cooperation in the underwater domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific and especially in the Indian Ocean Region, where he referred to “an emerging threat from an emerging power,” again meaning but not naming China.

India-US defence cooperation has made fair headway leading to INDUS-X which has initiated the information network and regulatory mechanisms to deepen defence technology collaboration that is poised to strengthen the bonds of US-India partnership, innovation and deterrence.

Col. Anil Bhat (retd.)

The writer is a former spokesman of the Indian Defence Ministry. Views are personal. He can be reached at




This article appeared in South Asia Monitor March 13, 2024. Used under special arrangement with SAM)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here