India opens massive weapons fair, denies arming for war

NEW DELHI, Feb 16, 2008 (AFP) – A massive defence fair opened in India’s capital Saturday, with hundreds of global weapons firms competing for billions of dollars of sales to one of the world’s largest armies and biggest spenders. Some 450 firms from countries including the United States, Russia, Britain, Russia and Israel are displaying their latest hardware to technology-hungry India, the top arms buyer among emerging nations and expected to shell out 30 billion dollars over the next four years.

The four-day “DefExpo” in New Delhi is also expected to see several big-ticket deals confirmed, with US firms hoping to take a slice of a market that was traditionally the domain of India’s Cold War ally Russia.

India’s Defence Minister A.K. Antony insisted the event did not signal that his country was engaged in an arms race with its nuclear-armed neighbours and rivals Pakistan and China.

“India is buying equipment so that we can offer a deterrent. We are not preparing for war,” he told reporters.

Since 1999, nuclear-armed India’s military purchases have been worth 25 billion dollars.

And the country, which has the world’s fourth largest military and is Asia’s second-fastest growing economy, will be spending eve