Pentagon clears sale of $1bn naval guns to India as top brass in US fan China scare
The Indian Navy is set to receive over a dozen cannons as well as parts and ammunition that only a few American allies have, just as the “China threat” becomes a bulwark for the US’ pivot to the Asia-Pacific.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has approved the sale of 13 Mk 45 naval guns – worth over $1 billion – to India, seeking to enhance “interoperability with the US and other allied forces.” The deal also includes shipment of 3,500 shells and spare parts, as well as training for Indian naval personnel.
The Mk 45 is mounted on the US Navy’s Ticonderoga and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as well as on similar-type NATO ships. Outside NATO, only a tiny number of America’s allies are privileged enough to operate the five-inch cannon, which is capable of sending high-velocity rounds to a distance as far as 24km.
Several days ago, the US military also kicked off its first land, sea and air exercise held with the Indians in the Bay of Bengal. The drill was officially to prepare forces for rescue and disaster relief missions, but it also included search-and-seizure training and live-fire drills.
India is still at odds with neighboring China, although their leaders have tried to mend ties over the past couple of years. With that in mind, Washington’s attempts to make India a top-tier ally in the region are quite revealing.
US-China tensions came back into the limelight in this week, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proclaimed that the “current and potential long-term threat” to NATO is the one posed by the Chinese Communist Party, which seems to be picking up the dubious title from Russia.
Separately, Pentagon chief Mark Esper tried his best to fan the “China scare” as he toured nations across the Asia-Pacific. While in the Philippines and Vietnam, he urged parties to put to an end to China’s “bullying” and get it “on the right path.”
Scaremongering aside, the US has gifted Vietnam an old coastguard cutter, boosting its ability to patrol the South China Sea amid tensions with Beijing. That provoked a sharp rebuke from Beijing, which warned against “flexing muscles” in the region.
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