In the last three years, since 2018, the defence trade between India and Russia was $15 billion because of some big ticket defence deals, said Victor N. Kladov, Head of International Cooperation and Regional Policy of Rostec state corporation.
The S-400 air defence systems deal, for which deliveries are scheduled to begin in a few months, was on schedule, Mr. Kladov said, while downplaying the threat of U.S. sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
“Indian government stands very firm in protecting national interests… Since getting S-400 is very important to enhance national air defence, definitely India will continue implementing this contract,” Mr. Kladov said in a conversation with The Hindu at the ongoing Army 2021 exhibition.
Stating that CAATSA was not targeted against Russia but against third countries cooperating with Russia, Mr. Kladov said it was for the Indian side to decide “how to protect itself”.
“When it comes to our side, we are very helpful. For instance, we protect our banking systems by doing payments in national currencies,” he said.
Mr. Kladov said they had no problems as far as payments are concerned. “At every stage of the contract, there is an instalment payment. We are moving smoothly because we are getting instalment payments.”
As reported by The Hindu earlier, deliveries of S-400 long range air defence systems are scheduled to begin by November. “One team of Indian Air Force (IAF) officials has been trained in Russia to operate the system and a second team is being trained now,” said Vyacheslav K. Dzirkaln, Deputy Director General for foreign economic activities of Almaz Antey, which manufactures the S-400, on the sidelines of Army 2021.
In October 2018, India and Russia signed a $5.43 bn deal for five S-400 regiments despite objections from the United States. U.S. officials have on several occasions raised concerns over the deal as India deepens its defence cooperation with the U.S. and has acquired several frontline military platforms like transport aircraft, helicopters, artillery and drones.
Responding to questions on the issue of possible sanctions against India during his recent visit to the country, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said: “Well, we have... we have our laws. We’ll... we apply our laws, but we shared our concerns with India about this. But I’m not going to get ahead of myself. We’ll see how things evolve in the coming months.”
For the IAF, the high end technology S-400 will give a fillip and make up for its falling fighter aircraft squadrons in the medium term.
Russia had been undertaking joint projects and technology transfer much before India announced the Make in India initiative, Mr. Kladov said, while acknowledging that competition was getting “very much stronger” in the last few years from countries like the U.S., France and Israel among others. So Russia had taken several measures like improving quality of equipment, setting up joint ventures (JV), undertaking technology transfer, and spares and support among others, he stated.
A few JVs were set up long before the Government of India announced the Make in India initiative like BrahMos, and more were being set up for the manufacture of Ka-226T helicopters and Ak-203 assault rifles, Mr. Kladov said.
Russia was ready to kick start production once the deal for Ka-226T utility helicopters was signed, he said. “We lost a few years on localisation issues… By concluding this deal we can further supply to third countries.”