India emerges as leading competitor in global military market following $10bn jet fighter contract.

The US secretary of defence, Robert Gates, arrives in the Indian capital, New Delhi, next week to promote a $10bn jet fighter contract, underlining the country's emergence as one of the world's biggest military markets. To update its Soviet-era arsenal India says it will need to spend $45bn in the next five years, and it has been courted by western states that are barred by arms embargoes from selling to China, the other expanding Asian military power.

US officials admit in private that arms sales to India also cement strategic ties as a hedge against Beijing's growing clout in Asia. Gates's visit, due next Tuesday, comes just before a March deadline for bids on the contract for 126 new fighters.

However the rising defence budget, which dwarves spending on education and health, has met mounting domestic criticism. Praful Bidwai, a prominent columnist, said defence accounted for almost 19% of government spending. "We spend 1% on public health and education is 5% or 6% of the outlays." "[India is] a poor country and we are spending like crazy on guns. A government report last year found that 77% of Indians live on less than 20 rupees [25p] per day."

RLCC: What is the matter with people that they are spending on weapons? People are starving, and the money spent on weapons could alleviate much pain and suffering. It's sick, spiritually and physically sick.

Originally by Randeep Ramesh from Guardian Unlimited on February 21, 2008, 5:20pm

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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