By Prarthana Mitra
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the national capital on Thursday to seal the $5 billion arms deal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a move that is likely to witness an unfavourable retaliation from China, Pakistan and the US.
Kremlin sources have put the purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air defence system as the crowning moment of Putin’s trip to India.
Possible outcome of the deal
Given Donald Trump’s recent spree to sanction countries that purchase Russian defence hardware, the US is likely to impose sanctions if the deal goes through.
Despite the fact that India has had cordial relations with the western nation so far, American officials have not indicated leniency or the guarantee of a special waiver in this case, according to official sources in the White House. At the same time, having India as an ally is essential to Trump’s government which has lodged itself in a tricky tariff war with China that shares decades of cross-border tension with India.
A time-tested friend
India, the world’s biggest arms importer, is undergoing a $100-billion upgrade (mired in controversy) of its outdated hardware. The indisputable fact is that Russia remains India’s main arms supplier, despite Washington agreeing to launch joint military drills with India next year, even after a fruitful summit with Pompeo’s visit to New Delhi last month, and regardless of the joint decision to exchange sensitive military information with the US.
Russia, and Putin, in particular, has been a time-tested friend to India, and Modi seems to share a special rapport with the Russian leader who towers over most of his global counterparts. Having slipped due to Modi’s growing cosiness with Washington, bilateral trade and defence relations with Russia improved last year after the two met in Astana, Germany and then in Sochi.
Now, with the US tailing as the second largest arms supplier to India, a deal with one of the most rapidly developing Asian nations could also prove to be a strategic win for Russia.
Russia’s role in building India’s arsenal
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. According to reports, the two leaders have most likely also 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.
One cannot also rule out the possibility of a second Russian-sponsored nuclear power plant after the expansion of the Kudankulam plant is complete. In fact, Moscow said it would advocate for India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group that controls access to nuclear technology. In other news, Russia is also training Indian astronauts for the first human mission to space since Rakesh Sharma, who also journeyed aboard a Soviet spacecraft in 1984.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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