The Big Four
Sorry Brazil, in this analysis the 'big four' are the contender states, Eurasian military-economic powers Russia, India and China plus the rival-cum-ally, the US.
Interesting that coinciding with a Condi trip to Beijing comes a possible US military deal with New Delhi that might undermine Russia's virtual monopoly over its defence equipment. Russia continues to supply China, of course, no big.
If India were to become dependent on the US both for nuclear power, Gulf-related energy security and military hardware, that truly would seal it into Washington's orbit as anti-American social forces in Pakistan begin to spin away and thus towards China instead.
Also interesting to note that China's defence budget took another leap last year, as revealed in the annual Pentagon estimate. Part of the 18% hike is probably down to rising oil and food prices, but there can be no doubt that China is building up its capability while hardly making a major contribution to UN peacekeeping (as does India).
All things being considered, it looks like simple geopolitics to me.
Gates' talking points in Delhi related primarily to defense trade. India's procurement of 126 multi-role combat aircraft in a deal estimated at $10 billion - and possibly, as high as $ 16 billion - was number one priority for him and for the American defense contractors accompanying him. The principal bidders include Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The importance of the deal is not only commercial, but that the new generation aircraft will be in use with the Indian Air Force for the next 40-year period and, therefore, clinching the deal becomes absolutely vital for the US if it is to aim at "inter-operability" with India. Gates knows it is the sort of deal that will ensure US-India military-to-military cooperation becomes irreversible and pin India down as the US's strategic ally in the region...
Gates expressed satisfaction over the entry that the US has made in the Indian market, which is traditionally dominated by Russia. He said, "We have tried for some years now to get a seat at the table, and we're finally there." Washington is determined to throw Russia out of the Indian defense market in the coming years. The assertiveness of the US sales pitch is evident from the remark by a US official in Gates's entourage, "When you go into joint production [and] cooperative development [with the US], you're getting not only the best product in the world, but you have the best support system, the best maintenance package over the life of the product. You also have companies that operate with integrity, which is different than what India has seen with other partners in the world. We're very transparent."