India Looks To US For Weapons
After Delay In Russian Deals


(AFP) - India said it was looking to acquire more sophisticated weapon systems from the United States a day after failing to clinch a raft of billion-dollar defence deals with Russia.
Defence Minister George Fernandes said India was hoping to buy military hardware from the US after both sides agreed to boost cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism initiatives, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
"We have found common ground for restoring mutual cooperation in defence ties after the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington," Fernandes said.
"We are looking at acquiring more sophisticated weaponry from the US which other nations are not in a position to produce and deliver at short notice."
His comments came after talks Friday with traditional military ally Russia failed to reach any agreement on several defence deals that could have had far-reaching strategic implications.
But the two sides did pledge to pursue the deals that were not finalised despite two days of intense talks in New Delhi between teams led by Fernandes and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov.
Klebanov and Fernandes hinted at the deadlock on the leasing of several TU-22 long-range strategic bombers, as well as the purchase of the ageing Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, by India.
"The technical discussions have been completed. The price negotiation is what needs to be done," Fernandes said Friday.
"How much time it will take is too difficult to forecast at this time."
There was also no sign during Klebanov's trip of a widely expected deal on the Indian Navy leasing two Russian nuclear submarines.
Moscow, which had previously leased India a nuclear submarine, is presently pressuring New Delhi to shun Western arms bazaars and instead pick up Russian hardware such as the MiG-AT advanced jet trainer and an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).
Almost 70 percent of India's defence assets and military hardware is Russian.
But ties between India and the US have been warming rapidly and this week a US delegation of senior commanders from the three wings of the armed forces were in India to follow-up on the Indo-US Defence Policy Group (DPG) meeting in December last year which agreed to boost defence ties.
The US officials met their counterparts in India to prepare the ground for joint army, air force and naval exercises.
"The armies and air forces of both the countries are planning joint exercises as an appreciation of the security environment in our region and various parts of the world," Fernandes said.
Two US warships, the USS Antietam and the USS O'Kane, have already conducted joint maritime exercises with the Indian navy as part of increasing military cooperation.
The US and India had strained relations during the Cold War, when New Delhi tilted toward the Soviet Union, and military cooperation all but stopped in the wake of India's nuclear tests in 1998, which prompted a raft of US sanctions.
But relations warmed following former president Bill Clinton's visit in 2000 and the sanctions were lifted last year after India joined the US coalition against terrorism.
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