New Delhi: British defence secretary Liam Fox arrives in Delhi on Monday on a two-day visit that proposes to enlarge broad-based cooperation in the defence sector as envisaged by the prime ministers of the two countries at their summit meet early in the year.
Secretary Fox's visit ''represents the next stage in taking this forward,'' a British High Commission statement said Saturday. Fox's visit, the first of a British defence secretary since 2005, has been described as "pivotal" as the focus on the Indian Air Force's $11 billion international tender for medium range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) shifts from technical evaluation to the political dimensions of such an order.
The MMRCA tender is one of the largest such tenders in the contemporary arms market.
Amplifying this defence sources said the visit would kick off a series of high-profile military exchanges between the two countries, beginning next week, even as the Indian defence ministry moves towards a ''down select'' of combat aircraft competing for the MMRCA tender.
The ''down select'' of the two finalists, from the six aircraft competing in the international tender, is likely only around February next year, with a final decision slated for June-July 2011.
The competing aircraft are the American contenders, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin's F-16 Super Viper, the Russian MiG-35, the French Dassault Aviation's Rafale, Sweden's Saab Gripen and the European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon.