NEW DELHI -- In the ballroom of a five-star hotel here, executives from Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest arms supplier, threw a candlelight reception one recent night to woo Indian defense experts as their country embarks on a major military shopping spree.
India plans to spend an estimated $100 billion on defense over the next decade to modernize its Soviet-era arsenal. With its growing military footprint, India is steering away from traditional ally Russia, its main weapons supplier, and looking toward the United States to help upgrade its weapons systems and troop gear.
As the world's largest democracy, India is seen as the most dependable U.S. ally in a part of the world that also includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which are racked by Islamist insurgencies. But India's expanding military ambitions, and the U.S. role in selling this nuclear-armed nation more firepower, is starting to worry its neighbors, especially perennial rival Pakistan. India also has ongoing border disputes with another Asian giant, China, which defeated it in a short 1962 war.