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US Aerospace Industry Hopes for Military Sales to India


India's defense minister says his country is prepared to collaborate with other nations to build combat aircraft, tactical missiles and other military equipment. The announcement comes as an unprecedented range of U.S. firepower is arriving in India for an air show where manufacturers are hoping to attract Indian buyers. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony pledged on Monday that his government is committed to a partnership in military aviation with other countries.

Antony pointed to India's recent nuclear deal with the United States, and its agreement with Russia to access satellite navigation signals, as examples of Indian intentions.

Other Indian officials say New Delhi intends to spend 30 billion dollars acquiring military hardware over the next five years.

That is exciting news for a U.S. delegation in New Delhi on its way to an air show in Bangalore this week to pitch the products of 52 U.S. defense companies.

The head of the delegation is William Cohen, a former U.S. defense secretary. He says the U.S. defense industry expects the acquisition process to be fair and transparent.

"That's all we can expect, that's what we do expect and we believe as a result of that we feel that we offer the best products at the best price with the best reliability and therefore feel that we will be very competitive with any other country," he said.

India for decades enjoyed a close friendship with Russia, which previously supplied nearly three-quarters of India's arms. Moscow now hopes to sell more than 100 fighter planes to New Delhi, including the new MiG-35 jet.

Boeing hopes to shoot down the MiG sales. The U.S. aircraft company says it will jointly produce with India the F-18 Super Hornet if Boeing wins the fighter contract.

A former U.S. ambassador to India, Thomas Pickering, who also is a former Boeing representative, is hopeful.

"This is a particularly opportune time for us to be talking with our Indian friends about further partnering as we go ahead and I suspect that in and around the Bangalore Air Show you will see some of this happening," he said.

Defense ties and potential contacts have quickly expanded between the United States and India since last year's agreement for the U.S. to cooperate with Indian's nuclear power industry. The deal requires India to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs and put the civilian facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States recently sold an amphibious transport vessel to the Indian navy for $42 million. That was New Delhi's first major military purchase from the United States since the two countries agreed on a defense framework in 2005.

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