The United States may be bagging lucrative Indian defence deals, notching up sales worth over $11 billion in the military aviation sector alone, but it cannot get over the fact that India does not want its fighter jets. Just a couple of days ahead of a crucial Indian defence ministry’s meeting, which will set the stage for eventual selection of either Eurofighter Typhoon or French Rafale for IAF’s over $10-billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project, the US has again angled the bait of an advanced fifth generation fighter before India. Dubbing as a “setback” the ejection of its F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-16 Falcons out of the MMRCA race after the technical evaluation, Pentagon on Wednesday told the US Congress that it was prepared to offer its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) — the F-35 ‘Lightning-II — to India. While the F-35 is a generation ahead of the MMRCA contenders, the IAF is looking to order 126 of fourth gen-plus fighters like Typhoons or Rafales, with another 63 probably at a later stage that will take the overall project cost to well beyond $20 billion. India has embarked on the path to co-develop its own fifth generation fighter, based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 prototype, with New Delhi and Moscow inking a $295-million preliminary design contract last December. But with India intending to spend a staggering over $35 billion to induct at least 166 single-seat and 48 twin-seat fifth generation fighters from 2020 onwards, the US is reluctant to give up easily. In a report on US-India security cooperation, which otherwise dwelt on the expansive bilateral military ties, Pentagon said, “Despite the (MMRCA) setback, we believe US aircraft, such as JSF, to be the best in the world.” It added, “Should India indicate interest in the JSF, US would be prepared to provide information on the fighter and its requirements (infrastructure, security, etc) to support India’s future planning.’’ This is not the first time the F-35 bait has been dangled, but India has refused to bite so far. Senior defence officials say India neither wants nor can afford two types of fifth generation fighters.