Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in India on Thursday to press for a number of new weapons agreements, including a pilot plan for the two nations to jointly develop a next-generation anti-tank missile.
The development initiative is part of a broader US effort to improve what has often been a rocky relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy and a major player in Asia.
Hagel’s visit follows a similar stop in the country last week by Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker aimed at wooing a key ally in Asia, in part as a possible countermeasure to China. Hagel plans to meet with top Indian leaders and business executives and explore plans for the co-development of a Javelin missile that is cheaper, lighter and more capable.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him on Thursday en route to New Delhi, Hagel said he recognises India’s intent to maintain its independence and develop its own industrial base.
“No country wants to be seen as a second-cousin” to the United States, Hagel said, adding that the US must find ways to “adjust to what India’s political requirements are, how they want to handle the relationship.”
Hagel also expects to meet with newly elected India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“India has many options to do many things with different partners,” said Hagel. “This is a high priority for me.”