U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on a sales mission to India. Apart from the big-ticket military hardware the U.S. hopes to sell its close friend and ally as part of the secretary's two-day visit, Western defense contractors are keen to develop India as a long-term customer and hope to wean the country from its long-term weapons supplier, Russia.
Gates' Feb. 26-27 trip comes less than two weeks after the four-day Defense Expo 2008 which concluded in New Delhi on Feb 19. Hawking their wares there were almost all the big, global weapons players: Raytheon, Boeing, Sweden's Saab, France's Dassault, Britain's BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and many arms dealers from Israel. Gates' visit also occurs close to India's Mar. 3 internal deadline to consider bids worth $10.2 billion for 125 new fighter jets.