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    U.S. expects breakthrough in arms sales to India - State Dept.

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    U.S. arms exporters are ready to become major suppliers to the Indian market, while the Bush administration anticipates a breakthrough in bilateral defense relations next year, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs said.

    WASHINGTON, May 24 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. arms exporters are ready to become major suppliers to the Indian market, while the Bush administration anticipates a breakthrough in bilateral defense relations next year, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs said.

    "In keeping with our new relationship, our firms do not want to be merely suppliers to the Indian military, but also long-term partners during the modernization and development of India's defense industry," Nicholas Burns said.

    He said the presence of 42 U.S. defense firms in India during the Aero India show in Bangalore February 7-11, was evidence of the willingness by U.S. companies to invest in building long-term relationships with Indian counterparts.

    Burns said the possibility of increased defense trade makes this a bright spot for future development, adding that U.S. technology is highly advanced, and the Indians "are seriously considering our defense industry to provide modern weapon systems" such as the Multi-role Combat aircraft, anti-tank missiles, and long-range reconnaissance aircraft.

    "I hope very much that we will see a breakthrough in our defense relations in the next year," he said. "I believe American firms will be well-positioned to succeed in becoming major suppliers to the Indian market if the playing field is level."

    Moscow may not be thrilled by such ambitious plans as its military cooperation with Delhi goes back nearly 50 years, India accounting for about 40% of Russian arms exports. Eighty percent of India's Armed Forces, the second- largest in the region, are equipped with Russian weaponry.

    The two countries have signed a host of arms deals, worth $2.6 billion, including most recently an agreement on transfering Russian technology to build RD-33 jet engines in India and to develop a military transport plane together - seen as a move to secure a contract for 126 MiG-35 jet fighters against the backdrop of fierce competition from the U.S., Sweden and France.

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