Russia on course to become India's largest defence partner again

December 28, 2015 01:54 am | Updated December 01, 2021 06:45 am IST - NEW DELHI:

After being in the dark for several years on India’s geopolitical canvas, Russia is making an emphatic comeback as India’s trusted and strategic partner and is on course to reclaiming the position as top supplier of defence hardware. Strangely, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seen as pro-America, who is making it happen.

“We have had excellent conversations over the past two days and very productive outcomes. It has deepened my conviction that this relationship truly meets the test of a special and privileged strategic partnership,” Mr. Modi said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.

This visit bridges the widening gulf between the two sides in recent times and plays a role in reaffirming ties with India’s oldest strategic partner.

While both sides concluded 16 agreements across sectors, the most visible indicators of the renewed vigour in the partnership are in the defence sector. Russia still accounts for 70 per cent of Indian arsenal, but has in recent years been overtaken by Israel and the U.S. as the biggest hardware suppliers on an annual basis. Russia, however, still is the largest supplier due to spares and support for hardware in the inventory and the committed liabilities for programmes under way.

It is no coincidence that the country’s first major project under the government’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ will be the production of Kamov-226T utility helicopters in India. Under the agreement, 200 Ka-226T helicopters will be built in India for which Russian helicopters will partner with India’s Reliance group to execute the program.

“The Inter-Governmental Agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India is the first project for a major defence platform under the Make in India mission. It is rightly with our most important defence partner,” Mr. Modi said addressing a press conference. While there was no announcement on the deal for five S-400 Triumf air defence systems estimated at $ 5-6 billion, senior defence officials said the process has just begun and price discovery has to be done as there are no other similar systems available in the market.

“It might take 3-4 months’ time,” one senior defence official told The Hindu .

Serious differences Two of the most ambitious joint development projects — the Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) — are, however, stuck due to serious differences.

(The headline of the article has been changed post publication in print.)

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