Home Global Village Indo-Russia military ties face strains due to New Delhi’s attitude

Indo-Russia military ties face strains due to New Delhi’s attitude

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India is reducing its dependence on Russia for critical defense programs, with the joint venture BrahMos missile set to be guided by a locally-developed target tracking device in the next year. While Russia remains the largest exporter of arms to India it has seen significant reduction in defense exports in recent years.

On Wednesday, after opening Def expo 2018, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a swarm of subordinates and bodyguards, was touring the exhibits in Hall 1, where the big Russian exhibitors and Israeli defense vendors were arrayed opposite each other. Senior Russian officials recount that Sitharaman turned abruptly to the Israeli firms — Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael and Elbit Systems — and strolled past without bothering to even look at a single Russian exhibit.

Moscow engages Islamabad in order to have a handle on the Taliban. And China shares a long border with Russia. Every country deals with its immediate neighbors on a special basis”, claims the veteran Russian technocrat.

Russian attempts to engage her attention were blocked by the guards around her. This is what the India-Russia defense relationship has come to. India’s political environment is no longer that friendly to Russia”, says a top Russian executive.

He ruled out a suggestion that Sitharaman’s snub might have been inadvertent. “A defense minister prepares for an event like Defexpo. She has assistants and advisors, who guide her along. It was deliberate”, he declared.

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Russia accounted for 68 percent of India’s arms import from 2012 to 2016, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It’s been the largest defense supplier to India since the 1960s when the MiG-21 supersonic fighter jets were bought to equip the Indian Air Force. These were then license-produced at the state-held Hindustan Aeronautics Limited until recently, when India began to junk the MiG jets and plan a complete phase out of the aircraft by 2022.

India is reducing its dependence on Russia for critical defense programs, with the joint venture BrahMos missile set to be guided by a locally-developed target tracking device in the next year. India’s defense scientists have developed a new indigenous system that identifies missile targets to replace the Russian-developed seeker on all future BrahMos .

In any such conversation with Russians, India’s “growing closeness with America” quickly bubbles to the surface. But when countered with the charge that Moscow too has come closer to Pakistan and China, the Russians quickly interrupt.

As Prime Minister NarendraModi pushes ahead with his military modernization process with a targeted $250 billion spend over 10 years till 2025, India has widened the scope of its arms purchases to include equipment from the US In the last two years, and the US has emerged as India’s top defense supplier. Since 2007, the US has won defense orders from India worth $17 billion.

A veteran Russian defense industry technocrat, who has supplied arms to India since Soviet Union days, says that Indian attitudes towards arms purchases had changed dramatically. In earlier times, the Soviet Union sold cheap, rugged and unsophisticated equipment — which was all India could afford anyway. “Now India has progressed. It can buy expensive and sophisticated weaponry and it is no longer content with cheap, rugged Russian arms. But, even though India’s military still has high regard for Russian arms, New Delhi’s political attitude to Moscow has changed”, he says. “Moscow sold weaponry to India on a friendship basis, at friendship prices. But India now wants Russia to compete in open global tenders.

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In any such conversation with Russians, India’s “growing closeness with America” quickly bubbles to the surface. But when countered with the charge that Moscow too has come closer to Pakistan and China, the Russians quickly interrupt. “There is no friendship in those relationships, like there is with India. Moscow engages Islamabad in order to have a handle on the Taliban. And China shares a long border with Russia. Every country deals with its immediate neighbors on a special basis”, claims the veteran Russian technocrat.

Russia accounted for 68 percent of India’s arms import from 2012 to 2016, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It’s been the largest defense supplier to India since the 1960s when the MiG-21 supersonic fighter jets were bought to equip the Indian Air Force.

When we point out that India and Russia cooperate on projects that no other country does — for example, in designing and building INS Arihant, the nuclear missile submarine, and the lease of INS Chakra, a Russian nuclear propelled submarine — the Russians bitterly point at India’s aboutface on conventional submarines under Project 75-I.

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The Russians also point to long-standing inter-governmental agreements that have been languishing for years — specifically naming the deals to co-develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, build Kamov-226T light helicopters and buy the S-400 long range ground to air missile system.

However, in a significant milestone, seven MoUs were signed between Indian and Russian companies on Friday at the Def Expo 2018 held in Chennai for indigenous manufacturing of spare parts, wrapping up the deliberations on the after sales services and spare parts availability for defense equipment that India bought from Russia. India has been pressing Russia to adopt a liberal approach in sharing technology for components of major defense platforms as it was critical to keep them in operational readiness.


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1 COMMENT

  1. why is this author casting aspersion.? India is not having too many dollars in pocket to keep buying weapons and Russia will need to manufacture it in India

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