India – Russia Military – Technical- ties | Continuity, Reorientation & Strategic-Balancing?

-Kaalbhairav

Guest Article

The first Government to Government (G2G) defence agreement the Narendra Modi led BJP government signed was for the acquisition of 200 Kamov 226T Utility Helicopter to replace the ageing French Aerospatiale Alouette III (license produced by HAL as Chetak) and Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama (HAL Cheetah) Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) of the Indian Armed Forces. This is one of the three parallel projects to replace the vintage utilIty copters of the tri-services, along with just under 200 HAL Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) for the Indian Army and the IndianAir Force along with 111 Naval LUH to be procured through competitive bidding. Of course one can question the rationale behind the three forces operating a mix of four (HAL Dhruv too is in service) different utility helicopters when earlier the Aerospatiale copters were common platforms across the board. HAL is also pitching the Kamov 226T for the 111 Naval LUH competition along with the Dhruv although the government has reportedly decided to allow only Indian private firms in partnership (Strategic Partnership model) with global vendors like Bell, Sikorsky, Airbus etc. to bid. However we can safely presume that there will be lobbying by Russia and HAL will bring the Kamov into the competition.

The Initial Plan

The first 60 Kamov 226T helicopters are to be built by Russian Helicopters and the remaining 140 in India. To this end a joint venture Indo-Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL) has been established between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Russian Helicopters and JSC Rosoboronexport and the production plant is under construction at Tumkur in Karnataka. A broad agreement between the stakeholders was reached in 2016, however the final contract is yet to be signed, which is not surprising as far as Indian defence procurement is concerned. The disagreements are related to the indigenization of the helicopter components with the Indian side insisting on a final 70–75% localization. As per latest reports, under phase 1 of construction in India 35 units with only 3.3% indigenous content are to be built, under phase 2, 25 units with 15% indigenous content,under phase 3, 30 units with 35 % indigenous content and finally under phase 4, 50 units with a indigenous content of over 62% are to be built. The helicopter has around 24–25% non-Russian components including the Arrius 2G1 engine supplied by Safran of France. When the agreement was first signed in 2015 the first helicopter was planned to be delivered by 2020 but now the timeline has been pushed to 2024–25. The deal is estimated to be worth over 1 billion USD.

Pillars of ties

Despite attempts by both governments to diversify bilateral trade, procurement of Russian military equipment by India remains the cornerstone of Indo-Russian ties. There has been some notable progress in the sectors of oil & gas and nuclear energy but trade between the two countries remains stagnant at around 10 billion USD annually. The target of 20 billion USD in bilateral trade by 2015 could not be attained and was revised to 30 billion by 2025. During the period from 2011–14 the United States overtook Russia as India’s largest military equipment supplier which created great consternation in the Russian political establishment and military-industrial complex (MIC). Not just the loss of Indian arms market share but falling behind the United States, Russia’s principal adversary in a market traditionally dominated by them hurt Russian pride too. Russia saw this as part of India’s overall tilt towards the USA.

Military-Technical relations and overall bilateral ties have been tested in the past even without the irritant of India-US ties, owing to the Baku/Admiral Gorshkov/INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier deal where the cost of refurbishment of the ship was hiked from the originally agreed upon amount of 974 million USD to 2.4 million USD and delivery was also delayed by 5 years and even then it came lacking in air-defence systems. The contract re-negotiations greatly strained bilateral ties between the two countries and left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Indian defense establishment.

Russia’s point of view

From the Russian side the insistence has always been on the historic relationship between the former USSR and India during the Cold War when the communist superpower supported India on the international stage, helped in setting up India’s public sector steel, mining and power industry and was largest source of India’s military hardware (starting late
1960s). Russia also provided technical assistance in the design and development of Indian nuclear submarines (the reactor of the Arihant class nuclear submarine is based in the Russian third generation VM5 nuclear reactor) and also leased a nuclear submarine to India from 1987–1991 so that Indian personnel could gain first-hand experience in the operation of a nuclear boat. Another Russian nuclear Akula-class attack submarine, Nerpa (whose construction was partially funded by the Indian Navy) had been leased for a ten year period (2012-2022). The boat (INS Chakra) though has returned to Russia before the completion of it’s lease period.

The Russians argue and quite correctly to some extent that no other country would provide India with the military hardware Russia does and that too without the sort of political strings that come attached with US military equipment. Naturally they are suspicious about and resentful of the strategic convergence of interests between the United States and India that has been taking place (not without it’s own problems) since the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement. Owing to the close military ties between the western countries and India, there is a fear among Russians that their equipment and technology might be accessed by the west. This is partly why an agreement on protection of confidential materials was signed in 2000 followed by an agreement on protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in 2005, the other part of course being the outrageous Russian IP rights violation by the Chinese.

Challenges – Quality and Service

Irritants in India-Russia relationship has always been present and more often than not these are related to the defence trade between the two countries. Prominent examples are delays in the execution of defence contracts, high maintenance costs and low serviceability of the Su 30MKI and the Mig 29K, overcharging and delays in the supply of aircraft spares by Russian OEMs, overcharging for tank ammunition, Russian complaints about India sourcing spares from Eastern European countries at reasonable prices and then blaming accidents on the lower quality of those spares, unease on the Indian side about close ties between Russia and China etc. From the Indian point of view, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was orders from the Indian military that was one of the major sources of sustenance for the Russian military-industrial complex (MIC).

Indian investment in the development of the Sukhoi 30, naval version of the MiG 29, KS-172 Novator made possible for these systems to enter production/service even without huge investments by the Russian military. Another noteworthy case is the T-90 Main Battle Tank (MBT), which entered production in large part due to the order for 1657 units (around 1000 of which are to license produced in India) placed by the Indian Army. Of course the large scale induction of the T-90 meant that the Arjun MBT continued to languish with only 124 ordered in the first half of the last decade and order for another 118 MK1A variant to be placed soon. So issues of low serviceability, persistent technical problems, delays are seen as a breach of trust and India’s dependence on Russia being used by the later to extract more contracts. There are also complains about the lower quality control standards and lack of precision-engineering skills in the Russian MIC.

Post 2014 serious efforts have been made by the MOD to ensure ready availability of spares and speeding up of repair and maintenance work to increase the serviceability of the Su 30MKI and MiG 29K. The serviceability rate for the former at one point prior to 2014 was hovering at below 50% while for the Navy’s MiG 29K it sometimes reached as low as 15%. HAL had set up an Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) at Nashik in 2014 but delays in procurement of spares and repair work by Russian OEM and disagreements between HAL and Air Force maintenance wing continued to plague the Sukhois. In 2017 a long-term agreement was signed with Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and United Engine Corporation (UEC) for speedy supply of spares and maintenance support although it did not include any clause for Transfer of Technology (ToT). During the 2019 Inter-Governmental Summit an agreement was reached for the establishment of joint-ventures in India for manufacturing of spares.

The lowest point

Post the delivery of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in 2013, defense trade between the two countries stagnated. In 2013 Russian arms exports to India was valued at 4.8 billion USD, amounting to more 30% of total Russian exports. However by 2017 that was down to 2 billion USD, about 13% of Russian exports. This period also witnessed the signing of major defense deals with the US to procure 4 additional Boeing P8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, 22 Apache attack helicopters, 145 M777 Howitzers and 15 Chinook helicopters (in 2018). The 8 billion+ USD contract to procure 36 Rafale F3R from France was also signed in 2016. A significant shift thus seemed to be taking place in Indian military procurement which actually dovetailed well into the larger strategic positioning. . In 2018 India also decided to officially pull the plug on the joint development of the FGFA based on the Su-57. HAL was unhappy with the workshare delegated to it by the Russians as well as with the lack of credible Transfer of Technology (ToT). The IAF too was not impressed with the relative lack of access to the Su-57 and some of it’s deficiencies like an underpowered engine and
it’s stealth characteristics. However as early as 2016 work had already begun towards revitalizing India-Russia ties and
the initiative in this case was being taken at the highest level. Big ticket oil & gas sector deals were signed in late 2015 and 2016. During the Goa Inter Governmental Summit concrete was laid for the construction of the 3rd & 4th reactor unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Talks also began for the procurement of five regiments of the S-400
Triumf AD system.

Renewed Focus in India- Russia ties

No major deals were signed in 2017 but that year India was officially admitted into the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO). The decisive tilt only came in 2018 and that too after PM Modi and President Putin held an informal summit at Sochi, just four months after the formal Inter Governmental Summit (The India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission holds a summit every year at alternate locations). The 5.43 billion USD S-400 deal was signed during that summit with deliveries commencing in 2021. The 1.5 billion USD deal for four Grigorovich (Advanced Talwar) Class Frigates too was signed in October, 2018. Two are to be constructed at the Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad with the first ship, INS Tushil launched in October 2021 while two would be built at an Indian shipyard with Russian assistance. Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) was chosen as the domestic partner in 2019.

Major Defense India – Russia deals | 2018-2019

  • S-400 Triumf for $5.43 billion
  • Four Grigorovich Class Frigates for $ 1.5 billion
  • Igla-S MANPADS for $ 1.47 billion (deal has not yet been finalized),
  • 464 T-90MS for over $ 2.8 billion, which is in addition to the 464 T90S from Russia in semiknocked down condition to be assembled at OFB Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi
  • 750K AK-203 Assault Rifles (joint venture in India) for over $ 1 billion (yet to be signed), 100K to be imported from Russia while the remaining to be built by Indo-Russian RiflesPrivate Limited (IRRPL) at the OFB plant in Korwa, UP. Held up by cost negotiations
  • 1000 air-to-air missiles (R73, R77, R27) for $ 700 million
  • A deal for the lease of another SSN for $ 3 billion which will arrive by 2025-26 (with reports of another lease deal being on the cards).
  • Russia played spoilsport in the $ 2.6 billion deal for 104 K-30 Biho air-defense system from South Korea. The South Korean firm was reportedly selected as early as late 2018 but Russian complaints to an Internal Monitoring Committee of the MOD have held up the signing of the contract. They are demanding a fresh trial for their Tunguska M2 and Pantsir S1 systems.
S-400 Triumf; the new poster child of Indo-Russian military-technical ties

In 2021 the two countries reportedly signed a small contract to acquire 70,000 AK-203 off the shelf from Russia while the main contract is slated to be signed in December 2021. The deliveries of the first two systems of the S-400 had already begun by November 2021.

Many of these deals are reportedly being steered by the PMO which points towards them being part of a larger policy. The Kamov 226T and AK203 deals are yet to be finalized with the later set to be signed during President Putin’s visit to India in December 2021. The Indian Air Force is also planning a deep upgrade program for the Sukhois in a phased
manner which while focusing on increasing the volume of indigenous content would definitely involve cash flow into the Russian MIC. Russian entities MiG and Sukhoi (both part of the United Aircarft Corporation) are also contenders in the prospective MMRCA 2.0 for 114 aircraft. Another Indian project in which Russia has a stake in is the P-75I for the local construction of six diesel-electric submarine and an official from the Rubin Design Bureau which is pitching the Amur 1650 SSK had even said that the choice India makes could have foreign policy implications as well. Of course India is unlikely to bow down by such pressures and threats of policy reprisals as is evident by the decision to go ahead with the Triumf acquisition despite the threat of US sanctions and the earlier MMRCA decision to choose the French Rafale despite pressure from the US.

AK-203 rifle chambered for the 7.62*39 cartridge. This deal will pave the way for the world’s largest Army to be equipped with an upgraded variant of venerable Kalashnikov. The earlier INSAS was designed and built in India but design and production quality control issues have apparently shifted the Army’s opinion into operating a proven and reliable system with local production having become the norm now. Not to mention that the Indian Army is one of the largest operators of the Kalashnikov rifle.

The only major deals signed with the US in this period was for 72,400 SIG Sauer 716 G2 Battle Rifle, two deals signed in 2020 for 24 MH60R Naval MultiRole Helicopters and six Apaches for the Army, a repeat order for 72000+ SIG rifles and the prospective acquisition of 30 Predator armed drones. Of course unlike Russia the United States’, bilateral relationship with India is multifaceted with defence trade being a small portion of a trade relationship worth over $ 90 billion. The two countries also have much more in common than India and Russia does. If one were to analyze the rationale behind the tilt towards Russia they would have to look beyond defence trade; at the larger geopolitical picture.

Reinventing India – Russia Ties

Defence trade or to be more specific, Russian arms sales to India has been the cornerstone of bilateral ties between the two countries, atleast since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Successive governments have invested in diversifying and expanding the scope of this relationship to civilian trade and co-operation in other sectors such as hydrocarbon and nuclear energy. However despite setting a target of $20 billion in bilateral trade by 2015 the actual amount fell well short of it, less than $10 billion. The target was revised in 2014 to $30 billion by 2025. The joint statement titled ‘Enduring Partnership in a Changing World’ made after the Modi-Putin informal summit at Sochi in 2018 focused heavily on steps to increase bilateral and investment and agreed to work towards a Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEC), LNG supply etc.

The first batch of Indian astronauts for the ISRO Gaganyan program have already been trained in Russia. It is apparent that both sides agree on the need to broaden the sectors of engagement. Such initiatives however do not mean that the importance of arms sales will diminish in the relationship between the two countries, partly because the Russian Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) is an extremely powerful lobby in the Russian establishment and because since 2016 Putin himself has directed the MIC to focus more on the export market to make up for decrease in state orders and also because Russians are quite sentimental about their arms industry. Four massive acquisitions from the Indian Armed Forces are in the pipeline and the Russians shall bid for all of them. These are the aforementioned MMRCA 2.0 for 114 aircraft, P75I for the Navy, 111 Naval LUH and 123 Naval MRH. The Navy’s nuclear submarine building project might also open the doors to further orders/collaboration for the Russian industry. In 2019 there were been reports that three additional Kilo class submarines have been offered as a part of of $1.8 billion deal which also includes Mid Life Certification and Upgrade (MLCU) of three existing Kilos. Whether the offer is only for the old hulls lying in storage or if it also includes the cost of refurbishment and upgrade is not known. This is important because the Russians could offer the platforms at a lower cost but then extract a very high price for upgrades and installation of equipment. The Indian Navy will give this offer serious consideration because the undersea fleet strength is inadequate and it already has a vast experience of operating the Kilos.

The China Factor

To what extent does the China factor loom over and drive this strategic relationship? Nevertheless it was an important factor during the time of the Soviet Union and it is an important factor now as well. Post the Chinese invasion of India in 1962, the Sino-Soviet split and the deterioration of US-India relations, India and the USSR became almost natural allies. However there were important areas of divergence as well, such as India’s refusal to get drawn into the Asian Collective Security Scheme proposed by Leonid Brezhnev in 1969, ostensibly as a means to contain China. New Delhi and others like Vietnam, North Korea too were unenthusiastic about such an alliance because they feared that it would leave them vulnerable to future Chinese aggression and super powers cannot always be relied upon for security issues. In recent times India again is treading cautiously when it comes to security structures like the Quad and is (rightfully) not willing to commit to joining any US led alliance.

The greatest beneficiary of the disintegration of the Soviet Union was China. The threat on the northern border, historically the gateway for invasion of mainland/Han China was gone. The Russian Federation which emerged as the successor of the Soviet Union on the global stage was economically in ruins, it’s industrial capacity partitioned between the successor republics and arms industry suffering from lack of state orders. The tables have turned in
the Sino-Russian relationship and now it was the former superpower that needed China’s assistance for sustaining itself. The payment for the first batch of Su 27 aircraft purchased by China was made in the form of food items. China emerged as the largest market for Russian arms and such was the dependence that when the Chinese industry illegally reverse-engineered the Su 27 to make the J-11 the Russians could only complain. India remained another large market for Russian arms post the dissolution in 1991, relations remained stagnant. Although Boris Yeltsin did visit India in 1993, 1971 Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Peace was superseded by the Indo-Russian Treaty of
Friendship and Co-operation and the Sukhoi 30 deal was finalized in this period revitalizing of Indo-Russian ties was put on the backburner by the Russians until 1996 when Yevgeny Primakov became Foreign Minister and revitalized the bilateral relationship.

Relations received a further boost once Vladimir Putin took over and visited India in 2000 when the ‘Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership’ was made in 2000. Prior to this when India conducted nuclear tests in 1998 Russia criticized it but did not impose sanctions. Nevertheless, not withstanding India-Russia ties, the latter’s close relationship with China continued. Russia supplied China with the advanced Sukhoi SU 30MKK, a variant of the Su 30 whose development was funded by India. In recent times Russia has also provided training to Chinese pilots in operating from aircraft carriers. Post the Russian annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine in support of the secessionists, the United States, Europe and many other countries imposed sanctions on it. This drove them even closer to the Chinese and has increased their economic dependence on them. China is Russia’s largest trading partner. In 2019 it accounted for $56.8 billion (13.4%) of Russia’s exports while India accounted for only $7.3 billion (1.7%).

The shift in weights

India, as of now is not an equivalent counter-weight to China. It’s economic ties with Russia is also hampered by the lack of a shared border (unlike the Chinese), minimal people to people contact and structure and limitations of the Russian economy itself. However, India is one of the only two countries which can match China, militarily and economically in the long-run. Russia does not view it’s strategic relationship with both China and India as a conflict of interest, although it is quite suspicious about India’s relationship with the United States. At the same time it is also opposed to the use of the term Indo-Pacific and the India, Australia, US, Japan ‘Quad’, viewing them as just tools to contain China. In the Raisina Dialogue held on Jan, 2020 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised these two issues. Lavrov had in the past also criticized India’s decision to not become a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Such a stance is divergent from India’s stance on the violation of it’s sovereign stand by the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is an integral part of the BRI.

Russia is thus simply toeing the Chinese line on this issue and has failed to be cognizant about India’s interests and sensitivities. During the 2020-21 Ladakh standoff Russia remained a neutral party and tried to play a mediating role between India and China with the Defence and Foreign Minister’s of the two countries holding meetings in Moscow
and also meeting in the Russia-China-India (RIC) forum. The issues that Russia consistently highlighted during the episode was the further pro-US tilt by India owing to the tensions with China, US attempts to drive a wedge between India and Russia and it’s stringent opposition to the QUAD.

Modi’s Russia Tilt

Despite professing neutrality between China and India during the border standoff Russia diligently supplied India with the requisite arms, ammunition and spares during the same. Supplies included Igla-S VSHORADS, T-72 & T-90 tank ammunition etc. and a contract for 21 MiG 29 and 12 SU 30 was also inked. Even during the 2019 standoff post Balakot when the Indian military went on a shopping spree large quantities of ammunition (Smerch rockets, ammunition for the 30 mm BMP cannon and Mi-35 gunship etc.) were procured from Russia. Of course this can be seen as just business as usual for Russia but Russian experts have confirmed in public that there are subtle Chinese pressures on Russia to
restrict arms transfers to India especially in the case of the S-400 but Russia has rejected any such move. The depth of the military-technical ties can be gauged from the fact that even during Lavrov’s 2021 visit to India when divergent views played out in public he talked about Russia looking to co-produce defence equipment in India. On the larger QUAD issue while they understand that India has no interest in containing Russia, they nevertheless view India endorsing the forum and the Indo-Pacific concept as an affirmation of it dovetailing it’s geostrategy into the larger American global strategy of containment which brackets (as outlined in the US National Security Strategy 2017) both Russia and China as threats to the international order. India for it’s part justifiably feels threatened by China and seeks to balance it’s stronger northern neighbor by:

  • aligning with the US
  • preventing regional players from drifting into the Chinese sphere of influence.
Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. A product of joint development by India and Russia. It is currently standard across all destroyers and frigates being inducted into the Indian Navy. An air-launched version too has been integrated onboard the SU 30MKI while works lighter, faster and longer ranged variants are ongoing. The Indian Army has deployed the steep dive capable Block III on the border with China.

The Modi government’s focus on not just maintaining but expanding ties with Russia in spite of all these differences can be explained by the following factors:

  1. Russia remains India’s biggest source of military hardware. Around 65% of the equipment of the Indian armed forces is of Russian origin and they are not replacing all of them any time soon. The recent spate of contract for spares supply,
    maintenance support and joint venture deals are vital for ensuring combat readiness of the Indian forces. Also in the case of a stand-off or even conflict India shall require Russian support, not only in the form of ready supply of spares and ammunition (as was evident during the 2020-21 crisis) but also on international forums.
  2. Russian hardware is cheaper than it’s western counterparts. For e.g., in the MANPADS deal, the Igla-S bid was worth $1.47 billion while that of the RBS-70 and Mistral was $2.6 billion and $3.7 billion respectively. Of course there is the
    lingering issue of high maintenance cost of Russian equipment.
  3. Russians although quite sensitive about their trade secrets are willing to sell or lease any equipment to India, perhaps other than nuclear weapons. Russian lease of nuclear submarines and technical assistance in the Arihant project has been instrumental in the success of the ATV project. The western countries, particularly the United States are fountainheads of stringent technology denial regime and intrusive end-user inspection regimes.
  4. Whether anyone states it or not India-Russia ties are a counterweight to India-US ties. India jealously guards it’s ‘strategic autonomy’ and in this endeavor maintaining strong ties with both is a necessity. The military hardware
    diversification strategy is just a manifestation of the larger policy.
  5. Strong relations between the two countries would be a leverage for India to extract support for it’s inclusion in the UNSC permanent member group and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India was admitted to the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) in 2017 with support from Russia.
  6. India-Russia ties atleast to ‘some extent’ acts as a counter-weight to Russia’s dependence on China. It prevents Russia from completely drifting into the Chinese orbit. It should also be kept in mind that the Sochi informal summit was held within a month after the Wuhan informal summit.
  7. Russia has in the past decade or so substantially improved it’s relations with Pakistan, a development which is discomfiting for India. The later has also shown interest in the procurement of Russian arms. It has in 2017–18 procured four Mi-35 helicopter gunships from Russia. India would like to prevent the emergence of a China-Russia-Pakistan axis that would hold sway over large parts of Eurasia and also push into India’s backyard. As of now Russian interest in Pakistan is primarily owing to the later’s geographical location which gives it a virtual veto over any
    development in Afghanistan. Russia views the Central Asian republics as it’s area of influence and would not want any civil war effect or Islamic extremism spilling over to those countries. Not to mention Russia has it’s own Jehadi problem in the Caucasus. However, it should be kept in mind that the debate in the Russian establishment on whether to prioritize it’s relationship with India or seek better ties with Pakistan in order to better handle affairs in Afghanistan is an old one. India sees a partnership with regional partners like Russia and Iran as crucial to managing the fallout from the Taliban takeover and clashes with the resurgent Islamic State of Khorasan.
  8. India would want to work out a permanent solution for the supply of oil and gas from Russia in order to further diversify it’s sources of energy and decrease it’s reliance on supplies from the West Asian cauldron.

CONCLUSION

In the long run the relationship can only be sustained if it evolved from a purely arms buyer seller one to one of economic interdependence, collaboration in the field of nuclear energy, space exploration and emerging military technologies. To that end an agreement was signed in 2018 for the construction of six additional VVER nuclear reactors in India by Rosatom and also establish capacity in the Indian industry for production of Russian reactor components. India would also do well to reduce the overall percentage of Russian origin arms and platforms in it’s inventory because it provides them with a leverage and an unfair advantage in any negotiation or a competitive bid. India first started producing Russian MiGs in the 1960s and since then it has license produced Russian tanks, armored personnel
carriers, infantry fighting vehicles but it is still not self-sufficient in any of these military hardware. A Sukhoi license produced by HAL actually costs around 150 crore more than one directly sourced from Russia. So clearly the strategy of gaining technical know-how and selfsufficiency by locally producing hardware has not yielded the desired results. Indian shipyards are still not even self-sufficient in the Mid Life Certification and Refit (MLCR) of Russian submarines despite the Navy having operated them since 1968. With indigenization and self-reliance now the policy mantra it is unlikely that India will opt for any of the next gen Russian platforms like a new FGFA, Su-70 OKhotnik-B, Su-75 etc.. It shall invest resources in it’s own AMCA, AURA and Rustom-2 projects.

India should also make it clear that as a ‘strategic partner’ Russia should be cognizant of it’s core interests and also help facilitate India’s entry into the UNSC AND NSG. India must also drive home the point to the Russians that it’s ties with the US does not in any way hurt Russia’s core security interests, expect for maybe US weapon systems taking some business away from them, which is in India’s as so far it does not want any country to have a monopoly over the Indian market. Moreover it is in India’s interest to acquire the best possible system for it’s armed forces and in certain areas like transport aircraft and drones US is undoubtedly the world leader. On the contrary it is Russia’s sale of defence equipment to China and the (recent announcement of) joint development of a ballistic missile shield for
China that directly affect Indian security interests. All sentimental ballyho and vested interests, if any, a hangover from the Cold War days are gradually being disposed of and India has become more assertive in it’s dealings with Russia. At the same time it is cognizant that there is an element of trust in this relationship and mutually beneficial ties also help the two countries better navigate the increasingly volatile geopolitical/international order. No matter how much the west and the Anglophile elites here desire, India will never remake itself as a poorer copy of the former and this principle applies to geopolitics and foreign policy as well and in this regard Russia is a partner and an important counterweight.

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