US: India plans to spend more than $50 bln for defence arms

Indian leaders told U.S. Defense Secretary Gates they were willing to increase aid to Afghanistan, during talks, U.S. officials said.

US: India plans to spend more than $50 bln for defence arms

Indian leaders told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates they were willing to increase aid to Afghanistan, during talks on Tuesday, U.S. officials said.

Gates' Jan 19-21 trip to New Delhi comes as the United States deploys an additional 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

India is already one of the biggest donors in Afghanistan. But its influence -- with more than $1 billion in aid from highway construction to new consulates -- is viewed with suspicion in Pakistan.

"India indicated a willingness to contribute more," said a senior U.S. defence official, briefing reporters after the talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said India's offer would not expand aid to new areas and "was caveated with: if ISAF and the United States think it would be helpful."

The United States, Gates said in the talks, was not going to leave the region -- despite a 2011 U.S. target date to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"As the military component of the counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan achieves success our economic and our political components of our engagement will rise in comparison," the official said.

Growing defence sales

Gates, the U.S. official said, also raised the importance of further building defence trade with India.

Currently the world's 10th largest defence spender, India is looking to spend more than $50 billion over the next five years to modernize its armed forces.

"He stressed repeatedly that we desire to have an ever increasing relationship in this area with India and to have ever increasing levels of transactions," the official said.

U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co said this month the Indian Air Force was interested in acquiring 10 C-17 aircraft, in a deal Indian defence ministry officials say is potentially worth more than $2 billion.

Last August, India started field trials to buy 126 multi-role fighter jets.

Gates, in an editorial in the Times of India newspaper published on Tuesday, noted the need to finalize bilateral agreements, including on technology transfer, to deepen trade relations.

"Not getting these agreements signed is an obstacle to Indian access to the very highest level of technology which they're interested in," Gates said. "And so we will be pursuing those agreements."

Reuters
Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2010, 01:38
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