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India to Consider Buying Military Hardware from US

  • Anjana Pasricha

India says it will consider buying military equipment from the United States. The comment comes days after New Delhi protested a U.S. decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to rival Pakistan.

Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee says Washington's offer to sell sophisticated defense equipment to India is a "positive development". He says India will consider the offer of fighter jets as it weighs the requirements of its armed forces.

The defense minister was responding to Washington's recent announcement that it will allow U.S. companies to bid for a large Indian order for combat aircraft.

The U.S. decision came along with an announcement that it was selling F-16 jets to Pakistan.

India has expressed disappointment over the sale of the fighter aircraft to Islamabad.

However, Indian analysts say New Delhi is not unduly perturbed, because Washington also indicated it is willing to boost defense and energy ties with India.

Indian media reports have said F-16s and the multi-role F-18 combat aircraft will be offered to New Delhi.

A security analyst at the independent Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, Bharat Karnad, says such offers signal that relations between India and the United States are on a new track.

"In so far as it is indicative of a new way of thinking, it is all right," he said. "It is symbolic of the better relations that we have right now. "

New Delhi also welcomed Washington's announcement that it is considering offering India technology for civilian nuclear energy.

On Monday, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said India will harness more nuclear power to meet its huge energy requirements. He did not refer directly to Washington, but said technology from other countries will help New Delhi in this goal.

"As an energy-deficit nation, India has placed considerable importance on nuclear energy in its energy mix … the pace of this development can be accelerated with greater international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," said Mr. Singh.

However, he also lashed out at the leading nuclear powers for not controlling the illegal spread of nuclear weapons technology. While he did not name countries, his comments apparently were a reference to the secret trade in nuclear technology by the now disgraced head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

India became a nuclear power when it tested a nuclear bomb in 1998. Days later, Pakistan did the same. The United States imposed economic sanctions on both governments, but those have since largely ended.

India and the United States were on opposite sides in the Cold War years, but in recent years the world's largest democracies have forged a warm relationship, expanding both defense and economic cooperation.