During his two-day visit, Gates, who is accompanied by a group of 50 officials and businessmen, is expected to focus on the controversial Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and the U.S. offer to provide India with a much-sought after aircraft carrier to replace the outdated INS Viraat, slated for decommissioning in 2012.
The LSA agreement, under which the two countries will provide fuel and other kinds of logistical support to the armed forces of each country, has been under negotiation for over a year, with India insisting that it be renamed, The Press Trust of India reported.
According to various U.S. sources, Gates is also likely to offer the Indian Navy the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier - to be decommissioned in 2008 - for free, provided India agrees to purchase 65 of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for on board deployment.
If New Delhi accepts the offer, it could seriously damage India's bilateral military cooperation with Russia, which is currently modernizing the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy.
The $1.5-billion Admiral Gorshkov sale is one of Russia's largest individual military deals with India. The ship is undergoing modernization work at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, in northern Russia, but the overhaul has been slow and suffered a number of setbacks, including a lack of financing and poor project management.
This would also deliver a huge blow to the Russian MiG aircraft manufacturer, which is promoting its advanced MiG-35 aircraft in a tender for up to 200 multi-role fighters, announced by India last year.
Principal bidders include the Russian Mig-35, the French Dassault Rafale, the U.S. F-16 and F/A 18 Super Hornet, the Swedish Gripen, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Press Trust of India said Gates is also likely to push for a bipartisan support for the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear agreement during his meeting with opposition leader L. K. Advani, whose Bharatiya Janata Party is against the nuclear deal in its current form and is seeking to re-negotiate.
Gates' busy schedule during the visit includes meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defense Minister A. K. Antony and National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan.