by Man Mohan

One should not be surprised on National Security Adviser Ajit Doval being given a second term with a Cabinet rank. The elevation was bound to happen the moment S. Jaishankar was inducted in the Narendra Modi Cabinet as the new External Affairs Minister. In the previous Modi government, Doval as NSA had a Minister of State rank. While Jaishankar earlier worked as the Foreign Affairs Secretary, Doval long back had headed the Intelligence Bureau. Doval and Jaishankar earlier worked with each other. PM Modi now will be closely watching whether foreign affairs and security affairs move on the same track.

American F-21 On Indian Radar

After the French Rafale fighter, India seems to be making up its mind on procuring the American F-21 aircraft. It is learnt that the file is ready for final signatures. Will the new Defence Minister Rajnath Singh do the honours? Sources reveal that the F-21 file in South Block was completed before the Lok Sabha elections. The F-21 manufacturing company, Lockheed Martin has “assured” India that it will produce the fighter here. It has claimed that it is talking to local suppliers to make components and assemble the aircraft under the “Make in India” program.

In all, seven global military aviation firms are in the race to win the tender to produce 110 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. Another American firm, Boeing is also competing for the order. Apparently, Boeing too has told the Ministry of Defence that it is ready to make its fighter in India. The man pushing for the F-21 sale to India is Lockheed Martin’s Dr Vivek Lall, Vice-President, Aeronautics Strategy and Business Development. Son of a late Indian diplomat, Lall is an American citizen. He is an influential name in the American and Indian security affairs set-up. Long back, he was the Boeing chief in India. Before going back to the US just before the 2014 elections, Lall worked as president in Mukesh Ambani’s new firm, New Ventures and Aerospace, and was instrumental for an MoU with French Rafale for the production of its components in India. This was just after the UPA-II had chosen Rafale as its future fighter aircraft. Later, Rafale signed an offset agreement with Anil Ambani. It is being claimed that the F-21 engine has an enhanced thrust settings, as per IAF requirements, and high stand-off capability (ability to fire missiles from a greater distance) and can stay up longer with less fuel burn. The question is now who will US President Donald Trump recommend, Lockheed Martin or Boeing?