India strikes deal with Russia on Glonass

Now, it can get precision signals from Russian constellation of satellites

December 19, 2011 12:03 am | Updated November 17, 2021 12:04 am IST - MOSCOW:

A day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here last weekend for his annual summit with the Russian leadership, an Indian defence team of scientists and defence brass returned to Delhi after inking an agreement for receiving precision signals from Glonass, Russian constellation of satellites.

These signals will allow missiles, including those fired from nuclear submarine Chakra, to strike within half a metre of distant targets.

Glonass is an alternative to the U.S.-controlled Global Positioning System (GPS). .

Indian military's access to Glonass has been considered important enough to find a mention in half-a-dozen joint statements issued after India-Russian annual summits.

As has been the case earlier, the issue lay in an indeterminate state for long time after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed it with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting in Delhi last year.

When bureaucracies from both sides began drawing up a status report on the progress in decisions taken last year, the Russian side found that no movement had taken place despite a Presidential Decree in this regard.

Menon's initiative

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon took up the matter before this year's annual meeting between the two leaders and ensured that talks took place in earnest.

“The Russians, for a cost, have agreed to give us precision signals … we will be able to use weapons in a better manner,” said Indian official sources.

The Indian security establishment had set its sights on Glonass after it conducted a post-mortem of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It found that the U.S. had blocked GPS signals to Iraq and then inserted erroneous signals that left Saddam's generals virtually blind as far as beyond visual range and sighting and targeting was concerned.

“We found that the Iraqi Army got misled and weapons went awry,” said the sources.

The issue of ensuring autonomy and choice in strategic communications found expression in the former Army Chief and Director-General of Military Intelligence, General S. Padmanabhan's post-retirement book The writing on the wall – India Checkmates America 2017 .

The General foresaw a situation, which has also been a subject of drawing board war games, in which the U.S. attacked India over Kashmir. Such a scenario is plausible, he said, because of the “propensity of the U.S. to act unilaterally against other countries in disregard of the United Nations.” He advocated need for India to be prepared to meet “aggression by any developed country, including the U.S.A.”

Strategic autonomy

Glonass is still in the making and a pact on the civilian side is still to be arrived at. But India's quest for strategic autonomy in advanced technology would be served with the pact on precision signals from Glonass, said the sources.

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