India on Tuesday approved 33.6 billion rupees ($768.5 million) of defence spending including the purchase of nine offshore naval patrol boats and the upgrading of Sea Harrier planes, the defence minister said.
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters the offshore patrol vehicles (OPVs) would cost 10.84 billion rupees, but did not say who the Indian navy would buy these from.
The Sea Harriers would be fitted with the latest radars, air-to-air missiles and digital cockpit video recorders and most of the equipment would come from Israel, he added.
Mukherjee said the cabinet also authorised the defence ministry to start talks to buy 12 used Mirage 2005 aircraft from Qatar. "We will start the price negotiations soon," he told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet panel on security.
India raised its defence spending by 7.8 percent in its annual budget in February to 830 billion rupees in the year to March 2006, up from last year's 770 billion rupees.
It has cited threat perceptions from neighbouring Pakistan and China to justify increasing military spending. All three countries have nuclear weapons.
India has fought three wars with Pakistan and came to the brink of a fourth war in 2002, but has since begun a tentative peace process.
The defence spending decisions made on Tuesday had been expected for some time and appeared unrelated to an announcement last week by Washington that it had decided to sell F-16 fighters to Pakistan, ending a ban imposed in 1990 as a sanction against its nuclear programme.
Washington has also said it is willing to sell planes and the more advanced F-18 Hornet to India.
Among other spending approved by the cabinet on Tuesday was the purchase of C-303 submarine-fired torpedo decoy systems from an Italian company. Mukherjee said the Italian firm would transfer technology to Indian state-run Bharat Dynamics Limited to set up the torpedo decoy systems.
The cabinet also approved the purchase of eleven Dornier 228 aircraft from state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd along with spare engines and ground support systems at a cost of 7.26 billion rupees.