Eyeing India's estimated $100 billion defence pie, major US arms suppliers are wooing Indian defence agents and officials as New Delhi embarks on a major military shopping spree to modernise its Soviet-era arsenal, a US media report said.
At the US embassy in New Delhi, defence contractors such as Northrop Grumman are sponsoring little league baseball teams, the companies' names stitched onto the uniforms, the Washington Post said in a report from New Delhi.
Almost every weekend, there are cocktails and closed-door presentations in the suites of New Delhi's five-star hotels, hosted by retired admirals and generals from the US armed forces who now work for defence firms, such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, it said.
"India will look back-generations down the road-at this period as a defining moment for its new, modern military," the Post cited Roger Rose, chief executive of Lockheed Martin India, which is renting half a wing of New Delhi's Taj Palace Hotel for a 12-person office.
"I think we can all see that there are a lot of threats shared between our two democracies."
With its growing military footprint, India is steering away from traditional ally Russia, its main weapons supplier, and looking toward the United States to help upgrade its weapons systems and troop gear, the Post said
India is also pushing the Obama administration to ease the acquisition of US weapons and technology. Already this year, a high-level US government group cleared the way for Lockheed and Boeing to offer India cutting-edge radar technology for fighter jets.
India now has a shopping list that includes 126 fighter jets, 155mm howitzers, long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, vast cargo planes used in long-distance conflicts, high-tech helicopters and deep-water submarines. Boeing is vying with Lockheed-along with French, Russian and Swedish companies and a European consortium-for a fighter jet deal worth about $10 billion.
India is holding flight tests for the fighter jets. Lockheed and Boeing have conducted demonstration flights for Indian celebrities and defence experts.
"America's relationship to India is maturing and expanding. India is an important global player now," the Post said citing William S Cohen, a defence secretary during the Clinton administration who is a member of the US-India Business Council's board of directors.