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Feb 19, 2010

India speeds up $11 bln fighter jets purchase

NEW DELHI, Feb 19 (Reuters) – India will narrow down the
number of bidders by mid-2010 for its $11 billion fighter jet
tender, a minister said, in a closely watched deal where
diplomacy and strategic interests will play a big role.

Lockheed Martin’s F-16 is competing with Boeing’s F/A-18
Super Hornet, France’s Dassault Rafale, Russia’s MiG-35,
Sweden’s Saab <SAABb.ST> JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter
Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European companies.

Feb 16, 2010

Govt pushes “make Indian” policy at defence fair

NEW DELHI, Feb 16 (Reuters) – At a four-day defence fair in
New Delhi this week, India’s government is pushing its private
defence sector with new policies making it mandatory for
foreign firms to make the bulk of arms sold to India locally
sourced.

More than 650 companies are taking part in New Delhi’s
DefExpo 2010 which began on Monday, touting their fighters,
missiles and cutting-edge surveillance systems to one of the
world’s biggest emerging arms importers.

Feb 10, 2010

India to test new 5000-km nuclear missile within year

NEW DELHI, Feb 10 (Reuters) – India aims to test a new nuclear-capable missile with a 5000-km (3,100-mile) range, a top military scientist said on Wednesday, a move that could complicate security in a volatile region.

The missile would effectively bring most of China within India’s range, as well as more potential targets to the west and east than its existing weaponry.

"Agni-V is out of the drawing board. We are aiming for a flight trial within a year," V.K. Saraswat, India’s chief military scientist told reporters.

India successfully tested the Agni-III missile, which has a 3000-km range, at the weekend and is ready to bring it into the military.

Any addition to India’s military capability is viewed with suspicion by rival Pakistan and usually touches off tit-for-tat efforts by Islamabad.

India’s announcement comes at a time when it is trying to improve relations with Pakistan and has sought to restart a dialogue it broke off blaming the 2008 Mumbai attack on Pakistani-based militants.

Relations between India and Pakistan have a direct bearing on international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, where the two countries have long fought a proxy battle for influence.

The United States remains wary of any spike in tensions between the South Asian rivals because that could give Islamabad an excuse to cite a threat from India on its eastern border, and divert focus from fighting the Taliban on its western border.

Last week, Indian and Pakistani officials met in New Delhi to decide the agenda for high-level bilateral talks India has proposed be held later this month.

But analysts said Agni-V may have more to do with India’s concerns about China’s rising military might. The world’s two most populous countries are seen locked in a fight to lead Asia, and a long-festering border dispute between them often threatens to snowball.

"The message is that the situation vis-a-vis China is very fragile, and India is trying to reinforce its deterrent capability," said Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic affairs at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.

"Indirectly, India is cautioning China against any military misadventure."

Saraswat said Agni-V had a 1.5 tonne nuclear warhead payload.

"You can reduce the payload and (further) increase the range," he said. (Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Jerry Norton)





Feb 9, 2010

India delays GM vegetable start for further tests

NEW DELHI, Feb 9 (Reuters) – India has postponed the launch of its first genetically modified (GM) vegetable, saying it would adopt a cautious approach and wait for more scientific studies on the impact of the new variety of eggplant.

The decision contrasted to China, which last year approved the pest resistant strain of genetically modified rice and phytase corn as safe, and wants to speed up the commercialisation of some GM strains to address potential food shortages.

New Delhi’s stance could come as a blow to seed producers such as Monsanto Co <MON.N> looking to enter India’s huge market in GM food crops and where the company has substantial investment, including for research and development.

"The moratorium will be in place until all tests are carried out to the satisfaction of everyone … If that means no start of production, so be it," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters on Tuesday.

Until the tests are done, India should build a broad consensus to use GM technology in agriculture in a safe and sustainable manner, he said.

Ramesh said though some countries cultivated GM foods, that was not a good enough reason for India to follow suit.

The decision is seen as boosting the Congress party among its main farming vote base, much of which is fearful of GM use, and comes despite pressure from Farm Minister Sharad Pawar who supported introducing the modified "BT Brinjal", or eggplant.

It also signals Congress’s leading position within the ruling coalition made up of difficult allies such as Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party. The Congress and Pawar, who also controls the food portfolio, are involved in a blame game over rising food prices.

"The government has been sensitive to public opinion and they have defused an upsurge among its farmer voters by this decision. It has more to do with politics, not any scientific reason," political commentator Amulya Ganguli said.



POPULAR OPPOSITION

Ramesh conducted public debates across the country to test the support for GM foodcrop. Most of these meetings saw strident opposition to the idea. Most non-Congress-ruled state governments, including major eggplant-growing areas, were opposed.

"They killed three birds with one shot. They have defused the public sentiment against them, number two is the political opposition was neutralised and three they prevailed over Sharad Pawar," said N. Bhaskara Rao of the Centre for Media Studies.

A government panel last year supported introduction of genetically modified eggplant, but the government said it would consult experts and farmers before accepting the recommendations.

"It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach," Ramesh said.

Ramesh said fears of the safety of the crop stemmed in part from a negative public perception of Monsanto, which owns 26 percent of the Indian company Mahyco, involved in the development of the modified eggplant.

"Very serious fears have been raised in many quarters on the possibility of Monsanto controlling our food chain if (GM eggplant) is approved," Ramesh said.

Advocates of genetically modified crops argue such varieties can easily increase food supply for India’s 1.2 billion people and protect farmers as GM crops can withstand adverse weather and increase output significantly.

"Nearly 1.4 million (eggplant) farmers will be deprived from (GM) technology," said Bhagirath Choudhary of the South Asia office of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a GM advocacy group.

"This would amount to a net loss of $330 million per year to Indian brinjal farmers".

But opponents say GM seeds can be a hazard for the environment and public health, and must be tested throughly before they are commercially used. (Additional reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta and C.J. Kuncheria; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Jerry Norton)





Jan 21, 2010

India’s navy boosts its air fleet in $1.5 bln deal

NEW DELHI, Jan 21 (Reuters) – India’s navy has started a $1.5 billion overhaul of its ageing Soviet-era fleet of aircraft, seeking to boost its air power in an Indian Ocean region where a growing China is threatening its traditional dominance.

The investment is one of the biggest the Indian navy has made in recent years and reflects New Delhi’s urgency to modernise its military, a move that rival Pakistan says could spark an arms buildup and destabilise an already roiled South Asia.

India plans to buy 16 new MIG-29 fighter jets, half a dozen light combat aircraft, unmanned patrol planes and multi-role helicopters. Tenders for these will be floated soon, Indian officials said.

The Indian navy is also upgrading its Sea Harrier fighter jets, IL-38 maritime anti-submarine warfare planes and acquiring five Kamov KA-31 patrol helicopters.

"We are acquiring new fighters and helicopters to … supplement a new aircraft carrier we are getting soon," Commander P.V.S. Satish, the navy spokesman said in New Delhi on Thursday.

Analysts said the upgrade of the navy was long due.

"It is almost a matter of time before ships from China arrive in India’s backyard," said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.

India and China are locked in a battle to lead Asia. New Delhi fears China is creating an arc of influence in the Indian Ocean region, bolstering claims over what has traditionally been seen as India’s backyard.

Indian officials said Pakistan, too, was modernising its navy.

Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA), which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, said last week India’s arms modernisation plans could destabilise the regional balance. (Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Bill Tarrant)





Jan 18, 2010

Boeing to invest $100 mln in India maintenance unit

NEW DELHI, Jan 18 (Reuters) – U.S. aircraft manufacturer
Boeing Co <BA.N> will supply India’s national airline, Air
India, with its first 787 Dreamliner in 2011, and invest $100
million in building a unit to maintain it, its India chief said
on Monday.

Boeing will supply the first Dreamliner 787 aircraft to Air
India [AI.UL] by the second quarter of 2011, said Boeing India
President Dinesh Keskar, adding that more planes would be
delivered to the national carrier at a later stage.

Jan 8, 2010

Boeing says India keen to acquire 10 C-17 aircraft

NEW DELHI, Jan 8 (Reuters) – U.S. aircraft manufacturer
Boeing Co <BA.N> said on Friday the Indian Air Force is keen to
acquire 10 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, in a deal which Indian
defence ministry officials said is potentially worth more than
$2 billion.

“Boeing is very pleased that the Indian government has
expressed interest in acquiring the C-17 to modernize its
airlift capabilities, and we look forward to working closely
with them,” Vivek Lall, India country head of Boeing’s
Integrated Defense Systems, said in a statement.

Jan 5, 2010

India’s Congress government puts off decision on new state

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Congress-ruled government postponed on Tuesday a decision to carve a new state out of Andhra Pradesh, sparking immediate protests from supporters and opponents of the idea.

The unrest could hurt business in Andra Pradesh’s main city, Hyderabad, analysts said. The high tech center houses firms like Microsoft, Google and Mahindra Satyam.

Dec 23, 2009

India, China stronger from climate meet: Pachauri

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The grouping of China, India, Brazil and South Africa has emerged as a significant force in Copenhagen and they could lead the way in future negotiations, the head of the U.N. climate panel said on Wednesday.

A climate change meeting ended last week in Copenhagen with a non-legally binding political agreement at the last moment between the United States and the big developing countries — China, India, Brazil and South Africa that forms the BASIC group.

Dec 22, 2009

India says to better cuts in gas emissions growth

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India could improve upon its aims to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, the environment minister said on Tuesday after returning from climate change talks in Copenhagen.

India said it was willing to rein in its “carbon intensity” — the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted per unit of economic output — by between 20 and 25 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels.