India lures global defence suppliers
India's drive to protect itself after last year's Mumbai attacks is attracting interest from some of the world's biggest companies who see opportunities in the push for improved homeland security.
The government, after shunning the private sector for decades, is embracing it as an ally in the quest for new security strategies and technologies following the Mumbai bloodbath last November that left 166 people dead.
"Indian companies right now don't have the capability, but they are acquiring it through overseas joint ventures as the opportunity is huge in the homeland security domain," says Amit Singh from the Confederation of Indian Industry.
"Public sector enterprises cannot meet this demand."
India plans to spend 30 billion dollars on military contracts by 2014, while junior defence minister Pallam Raju announced last week a separate 10 billion dollar homeland security upgrade to be completed before 2016.
"There are significant opportunities for the private industry to partner in the homeland security and sub-conventional warfare space," Raju told a military meeting earlier this month.
India began opening up its defence industry to the private sector in 2001 and allowed foreign firms to own 26 percent of local ventures, although a surfeit of red tape put off many companies.
Seeking to encourage investment in Indian industry, Raju said New Delhi would acquire up to 70 percent of its homeland security hardware from the domestic private sector.
US-based Raytheon and Boeing, Germany's Carl Walther, Britain's BAE Systems and France's Thales are among the scores of firms now seeking a piece of the pie.
Along with the traditional defence suppliers, interest is coming from non-military firms, such as software giant Microsoft, IT company Cisco and Motorola, the US telephony group.
"We are working extensively with various agencies in India to make technology which will help you concentrate on your mission," Subodh Vardhan, head of Motorola India told the military meeting.
India had previously focused defence spending on its conventional military, but the Mumbai raids exposed poor communication, outdated equipment and weak border controls, and led to a reappraisal of priorities.
Like other countries, India realised that it needed new strategies to fight threats from militant groups, both homegrown and external.