President Dilma Rousseff plans to use her New Delhi visit later this week to sound out Indian leaders on the French Rafale fighter jet, which she is considering buying to beef up Brazil's air force.
On Wednesday Rousseff is to attend the New Delhi summit of the BRICS (Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa) nations aiming to discuss increased cooperation among the five emerging powers, including the establishment of their own development bank.
The next day Rousseff will begin a state visit in India, and officials say the Rafale, which India has selected for its air force, will be a top agenda item.
The Rafale, made by French firm Dassault, is in competition with the F/A-18 Super Hornet, manufactured by US aviation giant Boeing, and Swedish manufacturer Saab's Gripen jet, for a Brazilian contract for 36 aircraft valued at $4 billion and $7 billion.
"The exchange of ideas, impressions" on the Rafale "is certainly beneficial for us," Maria Edileuza Fonteneles Reis, a senior foreign ministry official, said last week.
"India's decision, which has not yet been formalized, could have an impact on Brazil's choice because it would show that the Rafale, which so far has never been exported to another country, has one customer," said Nelson During, a respected Brazilian defense experts who runs the Defesanet website.
"It could resurrect an old project debated by the two countries in 2002 to join hands to produce the same plane," he added.
Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim traveled to India in February to discuss prospects for a "technical military accord."
"It's extremely interesting that the two countries are discussing a military accord" since each country could complement each other in the industrial sector, said During, recalling that India and Brazil plan to modernize their fighter jet fleet and develop a nuclear submarine.
A senior Brazilian government source said Rousseff will decide on which fighter jet to choose after her trip to India, her visit to Washington in April, and the French presidential election in May.
Last year, Brazil delayed a decision on the purchase following a major budget cut.
Rousseff also plans to commit to boosting bilateral trade with India from $9.2 billion last year to $15 billion by 2015, Reis said.
The two countries have developed closer ties since the creation of the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) forum, launched in 2003 to boost South-South cooperation ties.
Meanwhile the BRICS summit was to zero in on a plan for "a BRICS bank, an international, investment bank of these five countries," Brazil's Industry and Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel said last week.
Pimentel said the proposed bank did not mean "abandoning multilateral mechanisms" such as the World Bank (WB) and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), but was a response to today's economic necessities.
The New Delhi BRICS summit will be the fourth since the first held in 2009. South Africa joined the bloc in 2010.