A top-level Argentinian delegation is visiting the ongoing DefExpo 2022 in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar as both countries continue to explore new partnerships in the defence sector.

Led by Lieutenant General Juan Martin Paleo, Joint Chief of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces, the touring party visited the Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL) stall at Asia’s largest defence event.

HAL Director (Operations) E P Jayadeva and D K Sunil, Director (Engg and R&D) briefed Lt Gen Paleo and other senior officials about the various futuristic defence products on display.

The Argentinian General also had a good look at the indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’ which was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF), earlier this month.

India’s Tejas continues to remain in contention for Buenos Aires’ order of 12 fighter jets, a final decision on which could be taken in the coming months.

Pakistan’s JF-17 fighter jets developed jointly with China, South Korea’s FA-50, Russia’s MiG-35 and the US F-16s also remain in contention as the Argentine Air Force desperately looks to acquire a new fighter.

With Argentina and the United Kingdom engaged in a territorial dispute over the ownership of the Falkland Islands, India is offering a modified variant of the TEJAS MK-1A to the South American country with the replacement of parts manufactured in the UK.

This is the second high-level visit of defence officials from the Latin American nation to India this year. In March, Argentine Air Force chief Brigadier General Xavier Julian Isaac and Daniela Castro, the Secretary of Research, Industrial Policy and Production for Defence, were here with the aim of consolidating bilateral cooperation in the defence industry.

The delegation held meetings with Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Indian Air Force chief Vivek Ram Chaudhari and also visited the aircraft, helicopter and engine manufacturing facilities of HAL which manufactures Tejas.

Extensive discussions on bilateral defence cooperation continued during External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Buenos Aires this August.

India’s state-of-the-art modern fourth-generation fighter aircraft was high on the agenda when Jaishankar met Argentina’s Defence Minister Jorge Taiana and Secretary for Strategic Affairs Mercedes Marco del Pont in the Argentine capital.

Both countries reviewed their ongoing cooperation in the strategic sectors of defence, nuclear energy and space and reiterated their commitment to work together for mutual benefit. It was also agreed to enhance cooperation in the defence sector within the framework of the MOU on Defence Cooperation signed in 2019.

“EAM, acknowledging Argentine interest in the Made in India Tejas fighter aircraft for Argentine Air Force, highlighted the importance of the proposal in enhancing the strategic quotient of the bilateral relationship,” said the joint statement following the Joint Commission Meeting between both the countries on August 26.