India and Russia Thursday signed a deal for the immediate procurement of 70,000 latest AK 200 series of assault rifles. The development comes even as both countries work on a bigger project to jointly manufacture 6 lakh AK-203 rifles in India, a deal which has been pending since 2018.
According to sources in the defense and security establishment, while the initial plan was to import 20,000 of the 7.62×39mm AK 203 rifle directly and jointly manufacture 6.5 lakh of them in India.
It would be the Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the Kalashnikov Concern (manufacturer of the AK rifles), and Rosoboronexport, the Russian state agency for military exports.
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The deal was first announced in 2018, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even inaugurated the production facility at the Korwa Ordnance Factory in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district in March 2019.
India inks deal with Russia to immediately procure 70,000 latest AK rifles off the shelf
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However, the entire project hit a roadblock over price negotiations as the OFB quoted a higher price than the Russian product cost in import.
The final contract was expected to be signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in late 2020. However, the visit did not take place because of the Covid-19 pandemic. These rifles are expected to begin arriving in the country from November this year.
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They will replace the 5.56×45mm INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles that are currently in use with the Army, Navy, and the Air Force besides other security forces and will become the armed forces’ mainstay years to come.
The Indian armed forces also use the American SIG716 rifles, which are chambered for the 7.62×51 mm round and were procured by the Army under a fast-tracked process. The frontline infantry soldiers will be equipped with the SIG, while the rest will use the AK-203.