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India snubs Iran, Pakistan in defense show

Bulgaria fishes for fighter jet offers
Sofia (AFP) Feb 2, 2011 - Bulgaria's defence ministry said Wednesday it had requested information from France, Germany, Sweden and the United States on the potential supply of new or used fighter jets for its air force. The letters, sent in January, requested from the four countries "information on their capabilities for logistical support, equipment, training, financial schemes, exploitation period, etc," the ministry said in a statement. "The request concerns the purchase of eight new or used multifunctional fighters," it added.

The ministry however noted that "at this stage there is no clarity on the financial parameters of the project." No company names were mentioned in the statement but the newspaper Standart reported on Wednesday that Sofia was eyeing offers from major fighter jet producers like European defence giant EADS, Sweden's Gripen and US Lockheed Martin. Sofia will develop the parameters of its investment project based on the information it receives from the four countries, before officially calling a tender for the fighters, expected at the beginning of 2012 at the earliest, according to the defence ministry.

The acquisition of new multipurpose fighters for Bulgaria's air force had so far been delayed due to severe financial constraints. A 2007 US document leaked by WikiLeaks and cited by Bulgarian media on Wednesday revealed strong US pressure on Bulgaria not to acquire new fighters, but to purchase second-hand US F-16 or F-18 aircraft instead. In case Bulgaria decided to acquire new combat aircraft, "US manufacturers will, of course, be in this hunt," the cable added.
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Feb 2, 2011
India has excluded Pakistan, China and Iran from the biggest air show exhibit in South Asia.

Aero India 2011 kicks off next week and is expected to feature more than 60 countries, including Russia, Israel, the United States and France.

Defense Production Secretary Raj Kumar Singh, the main organizer for the event, said the Indian defense ministry had acted in line with "the advice of the ministry of external affairs" in deciding whom to invite.

While Pakistan has never been invited to the air show, its defense attache in New Delhi has in the past visited Defexpo, the land weapons show that is conducted every other year in New Delhi.

Aero India and Defexpo are put on in New Delhi and Bangalore alternatively, every other year. This year's will be the eighth exhibit of Aero India.

Singh said China had been invited in previous Aero India shows but didn't attend.

"That's probably why they were not invited" this time, Singh explained.

While Russia, the main supplier of military hardware to India, has been invited, its presence at the exhibit will be significantly scaled down, organizers said.

"It is not bringing in the MiG-35 combat aircraft though it is in the competition for a possible $12 billion deal to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft," The Telegraph of India reported.

Bent on bolstering its defenses and becoming a regional superpower, India intends to spend up to $30 billion on its military by 2012. In recent months, also, it inducted a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile into its armed forces and unveiled a defense spending budget spiked by 24 percent since last year.

India's multi-role aircraft deal is viewed as the single, largest military contract up for grabs.

Vying for the contract are the F-16 Super Viper (Lockheed Martin, United States), F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing, United States), Rafale (Dassault Aviation, France), Gripen JAS 39 C/D (Saab, Sweden). Officials have indicated that the deal could be concluded within the following months.

Iran's exclusion at the India exhibit was seen as a surprise.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, India and Iran charted close military relations, not only because of diplomatic ties but because the two countries shared a common Russian weapons platform. In recent years, though, India has shied from Tehran, either voting against or abstaining in U.N. votes on Iran's nuclear ambitions or its human rights record.

The defense production ministry of India refused to comment on New Delhi's decision to bar Iran's participation from the Aero India 2011 event.

The exhibit, which begins next Wednesday, has invited a delegation from Afghanistan as part of India's national policy to bolster ties with the country.

"We have good cooperation with Afghanistan and so we are delighted it is sending a delegation to the air show. We want such cooperation to grow," Singh said.

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