By Prarthana Mitra
India’s defence and strategic relations with Russia have a long history spanning decades, that was revived in full swing in May 2018, after Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi met informally for in Sochi.
This week, it culminated in a one-on-one dinner meeting between the two leaders (accompanied by their interpreters) in New Delhi, to ink a defence deal worth $5 billion and to discuss strategic issues concerning their bilateral relationship.
The current defence deal
On Thursday, nearly five months after the six-hour long meeting at Sochi summit, Putin arrived in the national capital for a two-day visit, after his aide Yury Ushakov had confirmed the signing of the deal concerning Russia’s advanced S-400 air missile defence system.
Kremlin sources had put this purchase down as the crowning moment of Putin’s trip to India, although the deal is likely to draw heavy sanctions on the Modi government from Washington. Regardless, sources in the Indian government voiced confidence in the deal pulling through, having told the media that patience is key in this respect. “We will have to see whether a deal will be signed, or an MoU, or will be reflected in the joint statement,” the source informed The Indian Express.
A history of defence collaboration
India and Russia recently concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the choppers, 60 of which would be built in Russia and the rest in India. Over the last week, the two leaders have reportedly discussed a deal for four Krivak-class frigates worth $2 billion and 200 light utility Ka-226 helicopters pegged at $1 billion during this summit. All the equipment procured can help fill critical gaps in India’s defence infrastructure, amid increasing threat along its border.
Putin and Modi, who were seen to share a rare camaraderie, are looking at a long-term, sustained relationship and how to make progress,” a source said. This is not “not a transactional relationship,” they added.
Future of India-Russia defence relationship looks bright
“Both leaders reportedly also held restricted talks on nuclear issues, such as setting up a second Russian-sponsored nuclear power plant after the expansion of the Kudankulam plant is complete. In fact, Moscow also said it would advocate for India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group that controls access to nuclear technology.
This will be followed by delegation-level talks, where the leaders will discuss trade, economy, energy and social issues. “But, since they have a rapport, this agenda is flexible,” a source informed The Indian Express. Other defence-related issues include a joint military exercise in Afghanistan and review of Russia’s proximity to Pakistan.
Both nations are also scheduled to host the 19th annual bilateral summit to review defence cooperation, especially since the US is bent on punishing nations that purchase Russian hardware. India, which is the world’s biggest arms importer, has had a longstanding relationship with Moscow in this regard and is currently undergoing a $100-billion upgrade of its outdated hardware.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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