Russia- India defence relations

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



Defence relations and related issues

See graphic:

Russia- India defence relations and related issues as in 2016

India-Russia military ties- missile shield, stealth frigates, light utility helicopters, as in 2016
Rajat Pandit, October 16, 2016: The Times of India


Defence projects (under execution and being planned)

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Russia- India defence projects under execution in 2017 and being planned in 2017

Russia- India defence projects under execution in 2017 and being planned in 2017; The Times of India, June 20, 2017


Reducing India’s reliance on Russian defence goods

India moves to reduce its reliance on Russia's defence imports, April 16, 2018: The Times of India


India’s defence scientists have developed a new indigenous system that identifies missile targets to replace the Russian-developed seeker on all future BrahMos missiles

Russia accounted for 68 per cent of India’s arms import from 2012 to 2016

India is reducing its dependence on Russia for critical defence programs, with the joint venture BrahMos missile set to be guided by a locally-developed target tracking device in the next year.

India’s defence scientists have developed a new indigenous system that identifies missile targets to replace the Russian-developed seeker on all future BrahMos, Sudhir K. Mishra, the chief executive officer of BrahMos Aerospace said.

"Our objective is to make use of the Indian seeker on all future BrahMos missiles," Mishra said in an interview on the sidelines of India’s defence show, DefExpo, on Wednesday in Chennai. "The Russians say if the Indians supply a cheaper, cost-effective and reliable seeker, then let us take it from India."

There are also plans to use a locally-made warhead on the missile, he said, without specifying a time frame.

Russia accounted for 68 per cent of India’s arms import from 2012 to 2016, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It’s been the largest defence supplier to India since the 1960s when the MiG-21 supersonic fighter jets were bought to equip the Indian Air Force. These were then license-produced at the state-held Hindustan Aeronautics Limited until recently, when India began to junk the MiG jets and plan a complete phase out of the aircraft by 2022.


As Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes ahead with his military modernization process with a targeted $250 billion spend over 10 years till 2025, India has widened the scope of its arms purchases to include equipment from the US In the last two years, the US has emerged as India’s top defence supplier. Since 2007, the US has won defence orders from India worth $17 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

India is preparing to test an anti-ship version of the seeker sometime in October-November this year, Mishra said. A successful second test would allow it to go into production soon after.


In the next five years BrahMos Aerospace plans to develop the hypersonic BrahMos missile that can achieve speeds of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, Mishra said. The Indian-Russian joint venture is working on overcoming the technological challenges involved in achieving hypersonic speeds for the present Mach 2.8 missile.

BrahMos is also working to extend the missile’s range to 800 km, he said, without giving a time frame. In March 2017, after India formally joined the international Missile Technology Control Regime, BrahMos successfully tested an extended range of 400 km for the missile.

US law attacks India’s Russia defence ties

Chidanand Rajghatta, New US law attacks India’s Russia defence ties, May 21, 2018: The Times of India

With Caatsa, Trump Tries To Wean Delhi Off Moscow’s Arms And Grab World’s Biggest Defence Market

The malign shadow of US sanctions hangs over the informal summit between PM Narendra Modi and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Monday, with New Delhi becoming a cat’s paw not only in the scrap between Washington and Moscow, but also in the turf war between the White House and Congress.

Although India has asserted that it will not allow any third country to dictate its ties with Russia, the so-called Caatsa (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) legislation has become Washington’s poison-tipped arrow threatening New Delhi’s long-cherished and long-nourished defence ties with Moscow which Washington is trying to whittle down.

While assuring New Delhi that it will do its best to avert the Congress-mandated sanctions against countries that have cozy ties with Russia, the Trump administration, pleading that its hands are tied by tough waiver conditions, is also using it to wean countries such as India away from the Russian arms industry to sell more American weapons.

In India’s case, the immediate efforts are aimed at nixing New Delhi’s plans to buy five S-400 Triumf air defence systems for around $4.5 billion from Russia, a prospective deal that is expected to be part of the India-Russia defence cooperation talks that will also take into account the Caatsa wrinkle and how to get around it.

On the weekend before his departure to Sochi, Modi tweeted that he is “confident the talks with President Putin will further strengthen the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia”, indicating his determination to get around the roadblock set up by Washington, with which too New Delhi has an increasingly close defence ties. The US wants an even closer relationship.

While some US officials have expressed understanding of New Delhi’s dilemma, considering that some of India’s legacy weapons system are of Soviet and Russian origin and it needs to maintain defence ties with Moscow to keep them operational, others have cautioned that Caatsa is Congressionally-mandated and the administration’s hands may be tied in terms of waivers if India goes in for new purchases.

“Caatsa is a feature and we need to take it seriously. The (Trump) administration is always bound by US law. This is a US law. I’m hoping that not just India, but all of the partners that we engage with will understand that we will have to evaluate any potential large defence purchase from Russia seriously because that'’ what the law demands of us,” Tina Kaidanow, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said at a press meet on Saturday.

Kaidanow is travelling to India next week for talks on defence trade and peacekeeping, which are among two key areas of the rapidly growing US-India partnership as envisioned in the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

Referring to the conversation that the US is having with India and other countries on Caatsa, Kaidanow said the US wants this to be a positive discussion. “The intent is not to sanction our partners. The intent is to emphasise how important it is that Russia’s malign behaviour all over the world is countered and by virtue of purchasing large-scale Russian system, what you’re doing is enabling that kind of behaviour. That’s the intent of the legislation.”

She also underscored the “positive incentives” to buy American products which are “good” and address relevant security needs besides making their forces interoperable in certain instances. “Think about what you’re doing when you purchase Russian product. It has a distinctly negative byproduct and that is you are creating an environment in which they are better able to do some of the things that we know are problematic,” she added. Section 231 of Caatsa mandates secondary sanctions on those who conduct significant transactions with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors. US and Indian officials at the cabinet and secretariat level have been in contact over the matter, and Trump administration officials have assured New Delhi the sanctions are aimed at Russia, not India. But at the same time, Washington is attempting to take advantage of the situation to sell more American arms.

Following up on the visit to Washington of foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and defence secretary G Mohan Kumar in April, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and national security advisor John Bolton have also had phone conversations with their Indian counterparts on the subject. The outcome though is still uncertain.

S-400 systems: India tries to please both Russia, USA

Indrani Bagchi, New friend & old partner, India tries to please both, October 5, 2018: The Times of India


As India and Russia prepare to sign a deal for S-400 missile defence systems on Friday, New Delhi is playing the greatest balancing act of all — steering its defence needs and a long standing strategic relationship with Russia past the threat of US sanctions while protecting growing ties with Washington.

It wasn’t this bad even during the Cold War, when despite cries of non-alignment, India was squarely on the Russian side of the field and the US did not see New Delhi as an ally.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin landed in Delhi on Thursday evening and drove straight to a dinner with PM Narendra Modi. The official programme begins on Friday morning with a breakfast followed by delegationlevel talks. A large number of agreements are likely to be signed — normal for India-Russia summits.

But all eyes will be on the defence agreements for the S-400 missile defence system, frigates and assault rifles. The US only last week slapped sanctions on China for buying the same S-400s.

Putin’s visit comes almost exactly a month after the first 2+2 dialogue with the US, where James Mattis and Mike Pompeo had discussed this scenario with Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj. India made it clear it needed the S-400 and had a long legacy of sourcing defence equipment from Russia, which New Delhi was unwilling to compromise. The US side reassured Delhi that the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law would not apply to legacy platforms or spares, but new buys could be impacted.

What is less known is that Mattis and Pompeo spent over an hour with national security advisor Ajit Doval for a deeper conversation on two issues — imports of Iranian oil post sanctions that will kick in from November 4, and the S-400 from Russia. Sources said both sides emerged with a better understanding of each other.

The Trump administration, however, still has to certify to Congress that India is reducing its weapons buys from Russia. That is a condition for a waiver on CAATSA, a provision written into the otherwise inflexible law by sustained diplomacy by the Trump administration. The waiver will be available to India, Indonesia and Vietnam. But, as Randy Shriver, US undersecretary in the Pentagon said, India should not treat this as a blanket waiver.

India is in a slightly difficult place — the US relationship is vital for India to balance China and its aggressive growth. It’s also the economic partner of choice for Indian industry. Russia, however, remains an old partner, with a huge piece of the Indian defence pie. But its closeness to China is a problem that India is uncomfortable about.

India has been reducing its weapons buys from Russia, but it does not want to ditch their deep partnership. In fact, India has increased its investments in Russia’s energy sector with oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan officially asking Russia to partner in India’s effort to gassify its economy.

Russia is also opposed to India’s Indo-Pacific policy, and has unequivocally opposed it. “We urge all our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA,” a state department spokesperson said when asked about India’s plan to purchase the multi-billion S-400 missile defence system. “The administration has indicated that a focus area for the implementation of CAATSA Section 231 is new or qualitative upgrades in capability, including the S-400 air and missiles ,” the spokesperson said.

Russia enjoys support from across the political spectrum — for instance, Sonia Gandhi, who doesn’t travel too much, went out of her way to travel to St Petersburg recently for a women’s conference.


 India inks $3bn N-sub deal despite US sanctions threat

Rajat Pandit, March 8, 2019: The Times of India

India on Thursday inked yet another mega defence deal worth over $3 billion for the lease of a nuclearpowered attack submarine from Russia, despite the threat of US financial sanctions still looming over the earlier $5.4 billion contract for Russian S-400 Triumf missile systems inked last October.

Defence sources said the over $3 billion (around Rs 21,000 crore) contract for the Akula-1 class submarine, which will be ready by around 2025, includes a comprehensive package for refurbishment of the nuclear boat lying mothballed at Severodvinsk, its sustenance and spares support for 10 years, as well as training and technical infrastructure for its operations.

This submarine will replace INS Chakra, the Akula class submarine taken on a 10-year lease from Russia in April 2012, under a secret over $900 million deal inked way back in January 2004.

“INS Chakra’s existing lease will be extended till at least 2025 through another contract till the new submarine, which will be bigger and more advanced, becomes operational,” said a source.

The deal, however, will further raise hackles of the US, which under its new law Caatsa (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) seeks to prevent countries from buying Russian weapons or Iranian oil. Though India is hopeful of eventually getting US presidential waiver for the S-400s, the latest deal could complicate matters.

Defying the USA for Russia relations

2018: Missile deal cleared Despite Threat Of US Sanctions

Rajat Pandit, Defence council clears Russian missile deal, July 1, 2018: The Times of India

2018- India agreed to buy 5 squadrons’- worth of Triumf missiles from Russia
From: Rajat Pandit, Defence council clears Russian missile deal, July 1, 2018: The Times of India

Consent Given Despite Threat Of US Sanctions

India is now swiftly moving towards acquiring five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia despite the looming threat of US sanctions, with the defence ministry clearing the decks for the proposed Rs 39,000 crore deal.

Top sources say the defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Thursday, approved the “minor deviations” in the mega S-400 deal that had emerged during the recently-concluded commercial negotiations with Russia.

“The S-400 procurement case will now go to the finance ministry for clearance and the PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security for the final nod. The country’s top political leadership will have to take a call on when the actual contract can be inked,” said a source.

The DAC was held just a day after the US on Wednesday night once again cancelled the inaugural “two-plus-two” dialogue between foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Sitharaman with their American counterparts — Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis — which was slated for July 6 in Washington.

TOI was the first to report in October 2015 that India had kicked off plans to acquire the S-400 missile systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400km and altitude of 30km, in what was touted as a gamechanging military acquisition.

Subsequently, the inter-governmental agreement for the five S-400 systems was inked during the Modi-Putin summit at Goa in October 2016. Even as India and Russia were putting the finishing touches on the complex S-400 contract ahead of the next Modi-Putin summit in October this year, Washington jumped into the fray to warn New Delhi against going ahead with the deal.

India and Russia have worked on a roadmap to get around the financial sanctions flowing out of the recent US law called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) that seeks to deter countries from buying Russian weapons.

New Delhi and Moscow have new military projects worth over $12 billion hanging in the balance, as is the question of maintaining the huge inventory of Russian-origin weapons in the Indian armed forces.

Under the proposed S-400 deal, the IAF will get the first S-400 squadron, with its battlemanagement system of command posts and launchers, acquisition and engagement radars, and all-terrain transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, 24 months after the final contract is inked. All the five squadrons, with two firing units each, will come in 60 months.

Once India inducts S-400 systems, they can be used to protect cities during war or vital installations like nuclear power plants.

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