‘I told Rajnath Singh good things take time’

Rajnath Singh’s message was very clear: India’s focus is on developing self-reliance.’

Heidi Grant was in the Pentagon for 32 years and retired as secretary of the air force for international affairs.

She held that position for over eight years. Now she is with Boeing as president, business development, defense, space and security and government services.

In conversation with Ajai Shukla/Business Standard, Grant says nobody is better positioned to do business in India than Boeing.

“Unlike some of our competitors, Boeing can leverage both its commercial and defence sides,” she observes.

What was the purpose of your visit to India?

It is to continue to grow America’s business partnership with India. It’s one of Boeing’s top partners.

Did you set any goals for yourself when you came here?

Now that I’ve been one year with Boeing, my biggest aim was to re-establish relationships that I’ve had in Delhi since 2010.

I was part of a meeting with the minister of defence here.

I was introduced to the director general of acquisitions and he goes, ‘I know Heidi. She’s known here as the Tigress’.

I said I’ll take that as a compliment.

For strengthening our partnership with India, I believe it’s important for India to have the capability to protect itself in a sovereign way.

My passion is how do I ensure that India has what it needs for its defence.

How did your meeting with Rajnath Singh go?

His message was very clear: India’s focus is on developing self-reliance. I was able to explain to him that Boeing already has over 300 Indian suppliers.

Boeing does talk up its billion dollar worth of exports in aerospace and defence, and the 5,000 Boeing employees in India.

Boeing exports 40 per cent of India’s aerospace and defence exports, which is quite significant. Is there room for growth?

Absolutely. Boeing’s best positioned for growth in that area.

Compared to others, Boeing is still ahead.

The other thing I said to Rajnath Singh at the meeting is that good things take time. You’re not going to turn on this huge amount right away. We need to make sure we do it right.

Let me come down to the multi-role fighter aircraft tender for 114 fighters. Would Boeing be fielding, as it did in the last contest, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, or would it go with different aircraft this time, the F-15EX or another aircraft in that range?

It depends on how India frames its fighter aircraft requirements. We would have to look at what the requirements are. We’re waiting to learn what the government decides.

So Boeing will not say that it put both Super Hornet and the F-15EX and it’s up to India to choose.

We would wait to see the requirements and assess which of the aircraft is suitable to meet those requirements.

The F-35 made quite a splash landing here. Do you think Lockheed Martin might just offer India the F-35? We’ve got our permissions from the US government. How do you see that as a former Pentagon senior official?

Now that I’m with Boeing, I’m not going to address that question.

It’s a very real possibility.

It was in 2010 also. I mean the F-35s have been in discussions since 2010.

US officials were saying that if India requests the top leadership level there’s a very good chance that the US will say yes to the F-35. As someone who was in the Pentagon, would you think that’s a possibility?

Now that I’m with Boeing, I’m not going to address that. And I think you should talk to Lockheed about that.

No, it’s a very real possibility.

It was in 2010 also. I mean, F-35s have been in discussions since 2010.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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