"ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI: In a military and arms sales career spanning three decades, Michael Devers seldom had India on his radar -- until 2005. A senior executive with Boeing's Integrated Defence Systems (IDS), the lesser-known arms division of the giant airplane maker, Devers traveled far and wide-- Korea, Japan, Middle-East, Australia -' hawking the latest American military wares to US' allies and friends. But rarely ever to India, which resolutely bought arms from the Moscow, Washington's Cold War rival, and Europe.
Then one day it began changing. Early last year, a top Boeing executive received a phone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office. The US was going to finally clear the sale of F-16s (made by Boeing's rival-in-arms Lockheed Martin) to Pakistan. But the Secretary was keen to offer India more advanced F-16s and even newer Boeing-made F/A-18 Super Hornets in keeping with the strategic shift in the region. Was Boeing prepared for that?
"We were all stunned," another Boeing executive, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the exchanges, recalled. "This is a new generation combat aircraft that we have not sold to our closest allies. Outside the US Navy, no one has it. Yet here was the Secretary asking if we were ready to sell to India and also ready for joint production." Boeing's reply was swift: Sure thing.
"O' the good Lord some giftie gie us,
To see oursel'es, as others see us..."
~ Robert Burns