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Friday, May 24, 2024

India remains keen on defense cooperation with Russia – Moscow

Foreign ministry was reacting to media reports that New Delhi is ‘pivoting away’ from its key partner for weaponry systems

New Delhi continues to be interested in defense cooperation with Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Andrey Rudenko has told TASS, commenting on a Reuters report that suggests India is “seeking to distance itself” from Russia, which remains its key partner for military procurements.

Reuters’ report cites four anonymous sources in the Indian government and in think tanks based there, and claims India, the world’s biggest importer of arms, is “slowly turning West” as Washington moves to contain China by “weaning [New Delhi] off a traditional dependence on Russia.”

“We do not have such information. This is all on Reuters’ conscience. Our Indian partners, as before, are interested in cooperation, including in this area,” Rudenko commented.

One expert cited by Reuters, Nandan Unnikrishnan of the Observer Research Foundation, said that Moscow and New Delhi are unlikely to sign any major military deals, as this would be considered a “red line for Washington.” Unnikrishnan later told TASS, however, that although he wasn’t misquoted in the report, he disagreed with the conclusion presented by Reuters.

”I am absolutely confident that the Russian-Indian defense partnership will definitely continue for many more decades,” Rudenko reassured TASS. He added that the future of defense cooperation between the two countries will depend on the ability of Russian weaponry manufacturers to find their niche in New Delhi’s expanding “Make in India” program, which aims to increase the share of locally developed and manufactured defense systems.

Earlier this month, in an interview with RT in New Delhi, Unnikrishnan said that both countries have a “realistic” understanding of where the bilateral relationship stands and are discussing how to take forward their defense ties.

While India’s dependence on Russia has been reduced in the past several years, as it ramped up domestic manufacturing of major defense systems and diversified its export sources, Russian products still constitute 50% of the arms imported by New Delhi, as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a global think tank.

Some of the major items imported are warships and fighter jets, as well as the Triumph S-400 air defense system, the last units of which are expected to reach India by the end of 2024. Notably, Russia was one of the first countries to co-develop weapons with India, before the “Make in India” program started in 2014. The two countries jointly produce BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles that New Delhi now exports to third countries. India has been one of the major licensed producers of Russian MiG-21 and Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, T-90 tanks, AK-series rifles and various other military equipment.