Indian arms race offers prizes for presidential visits

NEW DELHI, October 26, 2010 (AFP) – Arms-hungry India is expected to hand out a raft of military deals worth billions of dollars during an upcoming rush of presidential visits from the United States, France and Russia. The biggest-ticket item is the scheduled signing of an estimated 30 billion-dollar stealth fighter co-production agreement when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits in late December.

Medvedev’s trip will follow those of President Barack Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy, both of whom will be pushing existing US and French tenders for lucrative military contracts.

Fuelling India’s drive into the international arms market are growing concerns over China’s military strength and its expanding sphere of regional influence.

“China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned in September.

“There is a new assertiveness among the Chinese. It is difficult to tell which way it will go. So it’s important to be prepared,” Singh said.

India and China fought a brief but bloody war in 1962 and border disputes remain unresolved despite many rounds of talks and improved economic ties.

“China is becomin