Air India has struck a deal with Boeing to purchase 200 aircraft. The purchase is expected to support more than a million jobs across 44 states and strengthen U.S.–India relations, according to President Joe Biden.
“The United States can and will lead the world in manufacturing,” said Biden in a statement on Feb. 14. The first of the new aircraft is expected to enter service by the end of this year, while the bulk of the order will arrive from mid-2025 onwards, according to an Air India press release (pdf).
Biden said many of the jobs created will not require a four-year college degree. He expressed pride in the deal, which he said reflects the strength of the U.S.–India economic partnership.
“Together with Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi, I look forward to deepening our partnership even further as we continue to confront shared global challenges—creating a more secure and prosperous future for all of our citizens,” the President said.
Modi’s office described the deal as a “shining example of mutually beneficial cooperation” that will help create new employment opportunities in India as well.
“India, the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, needs a stronger service network,” said Indian daily The Economic Times, adding that the country wants to be a hub for maintenance and repair operations in the south Asian region.
Air India is now owned by Indian conglomerate Tata Group, but continues to be India’s flag carrier airline, enjoying privileges from the government for international operations.
Air India Also Partners With Airbus
The deal with Boeing is part of a bigger deal for Air India, which ordered 250 aircraft from European aerospace corporation Airbus as well.
The new planes from Boeing and Airbus will cost Air India over $100 billion, according to current list prices.
“The order comprises of 470 firm aircraft, 370 options and purchase rights to be procured from Airbus and Boeing over the next decade,” Nipun Aggarwal, chief commercial and transformation officer at Air India, wrote in a post late Wednesday. He said the company has also signed up for long-term maintenance of the engines with CFM International, Rolls-Royce and GE Aerospace.
‘Lifting Two Nations’ Dreams Together’
Ravi Batra, chair of the U.S. National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, told The Epoch Times in a phone interview the deal by Air India and Boeing will lift “two nations’ dreams together.”
“As an American of Indian ancestry, I recall as a little boy in the early 1960s accompanying my parents on the inaugural flight of Boeing 707,” said Batra, also an advisor to the U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee since 2007.
“I’m proud of Boeing and proud of Air India flying higher together: Americans and Indians are indivisible in their freedom-loving hearts,” he said.
Committed to Working Together
Biden spoke with Modi over the phone on Tuesday to discuss the historic agreement. They also talked about the strategic technology partnership between the two countries.
“During the call, the two leaders reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-India relationship and committed to continue working together” to advance economic growth for the two nations and expand cooperation on their shared priorities, said the White House readout of the call.
Last month the two countries held the inaugural meeting of the U.S.–India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) which was announced in May of 2022. According to a White House fact sheet, the aim of the initiative is to “elevate and expand our strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of our two countries.”
Eyes on India as It Meets Its Growth Needs
International business law expert Jonathan Bench told The Epoch Times the deal signals that meeting its growth needs is the Indian government’s primary concern.
“Clearly the Indian government’s number one priority is continuing to provide comprehensive infrastructure to support its explosive growth in the coming decade,” said Bench.
The current deal has obvious geo-political ramifications. Bench said Asia watchers will continue to study how closely India aligns with the United States, Russia, and China on several fronts.
“From a geo-political standpoint, India cannot really afford to do without any of these countries in the near-term. It is not yet clear how much India will be willing to distance itself from Russian energy and weapons and Chinese manufacturing,” said Bench.
Reuters contributed to this report.