India-Russia defence cooperation

The biennial Aero India show in Bengaluru had its traditional large Russian participation and provided the occasion for expansive claims of defence cooperation prospects. Russian products being showcased included fighter and military transport aircraft, multirole helicopters, air defence and radar systems. Russian Industry Minister Manturov was reported to have presented to Raksha Mantri Sitharaman the unique features of the MiG-35 fighter jet, including competitive life cycle cost and “a brand-new standard of product support services, with the supplier taking comprehensive responsibility for serviceability” – an acknowledgement of the chronic problems of after-sales support with Russian defence platforms. It was also reported that the IAF may place orders of 18 additional Su-30MkI and 21 additional MiG29 aircraft, and that a number of other systems were under consideration. 

Moving from the aspirational to the concrete, Russian companies signed MoUs with Indian public and private sector companies for production of parts like fuselages, blades and landing gear for the Ka226T helicopters to be manufactured by an India-Russia joint venture. A joint venture to manufacture assault rifles (Kalashnikovs) at the Korwa ordnance factory in UP is apparently on course; PM Modi laid the foundation stone on March 3. The Brahmos joint venture announced the induction of a lighter version of the air to air missile, which the MiG29s can also carry.  

There was some confusion about the status of the contract for the S-400 air defence system, which was signed during President Putin’s India visit in October 2018. Russian Deputy PM Borisov had confirmed that advance payments are being received and the Russian vendor Rosoboronexport announced that the contract had come into effect. However, the head of the arms major Rostec (holding company of Rosoboronexport) indicated on February 18 that the advance payments had still not been received.


February 28, 2019

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Ambassador of India to Russia; Convener, National Security Advisory Board

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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