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India and Argentina reboot defence ties as New Delhi scouts for new opportunities in Latin America

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with the visiting Minister of Defence of Argentine Republic Jorge Enrique Taiana in New Delhi on Tuesday (Image courtesy: PIB)

India and Argentina have agreed to the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a training agreement that will deepen cooperation in defence matters and enhance the ongoing strategic partnership that unites both countries.

The decision was made during the meeting that took place between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the visiting Minister of Defence of Argentine Republic Jorge Enrique Taiana in New Delhi on Tuesday.

A MOU on cooperation in the defence sector is already in place between India and Argentina that was signed during former Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s visit to New Delhi in February 2019.

“We are here to perfect and deepen the agreements we have and sign some others. One of them is a Memorandum of Understanding that is richer in content and concrete possibilities than the one currently in force,” said Taiana, adding: “I think we have a concrete opportunity in the field of Defence, where we can give a quality leap in cooperation between the two countries”.

During their meeting, the two Defence Ministers discussed issues related to bilateral cooperation and exchange in areas of training and training of officers and cadets besides also measures to enhance defence industrial partnership.

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They also analysed the global geopolitical situation with Taiana highlighting the importance that Argentina attaches to India’s vision and its projection towards the South Atlantic and Antarctica.

“We have a world that changes rapidly, but nevertheless, Latin America has some characteristics that make the region stand out: the first is the absence of weapons of mass destruction and the non-existence of conflicts between States. The second is the enormous variety of natural resources; and the third is the existence in some countries of significant development in strategic areas with high potential for cooperation and the establishment of joint ventures,” he said.

Taiana arrived in the Indian capital on Monday on a four-day visit to the country along with Francisco Cafiero, Secretary International Affairs, Argentine Ministry of Defence.

Immediately after landing in India, Taiana toured the BrahMos Aerospace facility in New Delhi and met with the Indo-Russian aerospace and defence corporation’s CEO and Managing Director Atul Dinkar Rane.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com extensively over the past one year, India’s state-of-the-art modern fourth-generation Tejas fighter jet has for long been in contention for Buenos Aires’ order of 12 fighter jets, a final decision on which is expected to be taken during Taiana’s India visit.

Also Read: Not just Tejas, Brahmos and Prachand also on procurement radar of visiting Argentinian Defence Minister

It is believed that India is offering a modified variant of the LCA Tejas Mk1A to Argentina with the replacement of parts manufactured in the United Kingdom, thus keeping it way ahead in the race – that also includes major competitors including Pakistan’s JF-17 fighter jets developed jointly with China, South Korea’s FA-50, Russia’s MiG-35 and the US F-16s – to become Argentina’s top choice for its air force.

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Argentina is one of the several countries to have evinced interest in indigenously designed, developed and manufactured Light Combat Aircraft Tejas (Image courtesy: Indian Air Force)

Quite significantly, considering the fast-changing geopolitical scenario in the region and amid its ongoing territorial dispute with the United Kingdom over the ownership of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Argentina also remains quite keen on bolstering its defence forces with India’s Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles and the indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) ‘Prachand’ that was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF), last October.

On Tuesday, Taiana also thanked India for its support in the United Nations Decolonization Committee with regard to the Question of the Falkland Islands and invited Singh to the Latin American Conference of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (ALCONU) that will take place in Argentina on September 12.

Also Read: Will Argentina lead demand for India’s Tejas fighter jets in Latin America?

The Argentine Defence Minister is scheduled to interact with leading think-tanks in Delhi and will also travel to Bengaluru and visit the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) facilities besides separately interacting with the defence start-ups in an event organised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX).

IndiaNarrative.com has reported visits of Argentine defence delegations to India and also the series of meetings between the Argentine defence ministry and the HAL – the largest industrial aeronautics company in India and one of the most important in Asia – that began in March 2022.

Only last month, Taiana received a HAL delegation, accompanied by Indian Ambassador to Argentina Dinesh Bhatia, which was visiting the country with the objective of promoting bilateral cooperation in the field of defence industry.

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Dinesh Bhatia, Indian Ambassador to Argentina, with Argentina’s Defence Minister Jorge Taiana in Buenos Aires, last month (Image courtesy: Twitter/@JorgeTaiana)

The travelling party also held a meeting with the chief of Argentine Air Force, Brigadier General Xavier Isaac and his technical team to evaluate the offer of Tejas combat aircraft.

Likewise, they also met the country’s army chief, Lieutenant General Guillermo Olegario Pereda and personnel from the force to present options for helicopters manufactured in India.

On June 19, the Argentine Aircraft Factory (FAdeA) and HAL signed an agreement on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show with the aim of exploring possibilities in commercialization and joint development of products.

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Lieutenant General Juan Martin Paleo, Joint Chief of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces, at the DefExpo 2022 in Gandhinagar (Image courtesy: Twitter/@HALHQBLR)

The collaboration, said the Argentine Defence Ministry, represents a valuable opportunity for FAdeA to enter the Indian market and, in turn, access the Asian market in its set and, at the same time, allows HAL to expand in the Latin American market, having FAdeA as its main partner in the region.

Earlier this year, during the Aero India 2023 show, the Argentine Air Force signed a contract with HAL for the maintenance of the engines of its Lama helicopters while another top-level Argentinian delegation led by Lieutenant General Juan Martin Paleo, Joint Chief of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces, visited the DefExpo 2022 in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar last October.

Also Read: Tejas on mind, Argentine Armed Forces chief takes close look at HAL’s prowess