Ahead of the ninth India-US Defence Technologies and Trade Initiative or DTTI group meeting in New Delhi next week, the Pentagon on Saturday said that the bilateral defence trade between the two countries is expected to reach USD 18 billion by the year end.

Undersecretary Of Defense For Acquisition And Sustainment Ellen M Lord said the US is committed to strengthen its partnership with India while furthering military-to-military relationships and cooperation.

“Bilateral defence trade, essentially zero in 2008, will reach an estimated USD 18 billion later this year,” she told reporters at the Pentagon.

Lord heads to New Delhi next week to co-chair the ninth India-US Defence Technologies and Trade Initiative or DTTI group meeting with her co-chair Secretary for Defence Protection Apurva Chandra.

“As the US Department of Defense leads for DTTI, I’m excited to continue working with our Indian major defence partner,” Lord said.

She said the US granted the India Strategic Trade Authority Tier 1 designation last August, providing New Delhi with greater supply-chain efficiency by allowing American companies to export a greater range of dual-use and high-technology items to India under streamlined processes.

This grants India the same authorisation as NATO allies Japan, South Korea and Australia, she added.

“All of these examples show how the United States and India are working bilaterally and in cooperation with other like-minded partners to advance our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific,” Lord said.

Responding to a question, she said she personally has seen an uptick in the pace of movement in India and the willingness to engage.

“We truly are developing some new capabilities together for production in India, as well as to be produced here,” Lord said.

Earlier in February, the Pentagon had said that that defence sales between India and the US are at an all-time high and bilateral strategic partnership continues to advance at an historic pace.

Last year, India and the US signed the COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) to facilitate interoperability between the two militaries and sale of high end technology.

Over the past year, the United States and Indian militaries have participated in five major exercises, executed more than fifty other military exchanges, and further operationalized the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), he informed the lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the US has had expressed its concerns over India’s S-400 missile deal with Russia.

New Delhi is expecting the US administration to grant a waiver from sanctions to its procurement of five S-400 missile defence systems from Russia over which a threat of sanctions is looming large.

Brushing aside the threat of American sanctions, India in October last year signed the deal to buy five S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia in at an estimated cost of $5.43 billion.

The US wants India to cancel the deal with Russia, failing which sanctions could be imposed.

(With PTI inputs)