Washington, Dec. 26 (Reuters): The US is gearing up to battle Russia and Europe for sales of billions of dollars in jet fighters, cargo aircraft and other arms to India.
US officials regard sales to India, with a potential $40-billion arms market including missile-defence systems, as a way to cement strategic ties and boost bilateral military cooperation as a hedge against Chinas growing clout.
By reaching out to India, we have made the bet that the planets future lies in pluralism, democracy and market economics, said Nicholas Burns, the state departments No. 3 official, rather than in intolerance, despotism and state planning, an apparent reference to communist-ruled China.
A significant Indian defense purchase from the United States ... would be a great leap forward and signal a real commitment to long-term military partnership, he added in the November/December issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.
Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, cited as an example the 126 new multirole fighter aircraft sought by the Indian Air Force, a potential $10.2 billion deal coveted by Washington as a key to stepped-up military ties.
Six fighter suppliers from Europe, Russia and the US are to submit detailed bids by March 3. The US competitors, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, are striving to unseat suppliers from Russia, Indias chief arms source during decades of Cold War US-Indian distrust.
Russia is offering its MiG-35 to replace the earlier-model MiGs the Indians now fly. Also in the race are Frances Dassault Rafale, Swedens Saab AB JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, made by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies.
Last week, Chicago-based Boeing agreed in principle to send as much as $1 billion in aerospace manufacturing work to Indias state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) over the next 10 years.
Under a pact signed on Thursday in New Delhi, the mostly weapons-related work would start at $10 million to $20 million annually, increasing in size and complexity as business opportunities develop, a Boeing statement said.Boeing hopes this may help meet what would be its need to produce goods worth half the fighter contracts value if its F/A-18 Super Hornet strike aircraft wins over rivals.