In a first such donation of its kind, Russia’s State-owned defence exports company Rosoboronexport has committed $2million (₹15.3 crore) to the newly set up ‘PM CARES Fund’, diplomatic and government sources confirmed. The proposed donation to the fund that has been set up specially to assist the government’s efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, marks a significant shift in India’s policy on accepting contributions from foreign government owned companies. Thus far, the government had been only open to contributions from “NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations”.
“The transfer is yet to be made” the sources told The Hindu on Tuesday, while confirming that Rosoboronexport — Russia’s umbrella group for all defence exports and a subsidiary of the state-owned defence manufacturing company Rostec — had indicated its intentions to make then donation. The firm is the largest source of India’s arms imports and is set to supply defence equipment including the S-400 air defence systems, stealth frigates and AK-203 assault rifles.
When asked if the donation would constitute a shift from past practice, the Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment. In August 2018, the Indian government had refused to accept offers of aid from several countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and the Maldives during the Kerala floods. At the time, the government had said that it was committed to meeting relief and rehabilitation requirements “through domestic efforts”. “Contributions to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund and the Chief Minister's Relief Fund from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would, however, be welcome," the MEA spokesperson had added. During the 2004 Tsunami as well, PM Manmohan Singh’s government had similarly decided not to accept foreign contributions, pointing out that India had gone from being an “aid-taker to aid-giver”.
On March 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund, putting aside the ‘Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF)’. Mr. Modi had made a personal appeal on social media and directed Indian missions worldwide to invite contributions for the fund. “What has been announced is that the PM CARES fund will simply accept donations and contributions from individuals and organisations that are based in foreign countries,” government sources said in a statement, and referred again to the 2018 decision to only accept foreign donations from Indians living abroad, NRIs, international foundations and UN agencies.
As a result, the donation offer from Rosoboronexport is a departure from precedent for New Delhi. Significantly, the funds from Rosoboronexport may also come under scrutiny as the Russian company is under a series of sanctions from the United States including under its CAATSA law. India has, however, thus far refused to abide by the U.S. sanctions.