Russia tries to woo back India

Written by HumaSiddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 4 2013, 23:52pm hrs
RussiLast month, both countries inked defence deals worth $ 3 bn including a contract worth around $ 2.2 billion for licence. (Reuters)
Russia - the arch patron of Indian armed forces modernization - is seeking to woo back India in its fold by not only offering defence technology but also prospects of creation of jobs in the domestic defence industry. Of late, India had been opting for American weapons and platforms as an effort to diversify its inventory - so far dominated by Russian equipment.

Last month, both countries inked defence deals worth $ 3 bn including a contract worth around $ 2.2 billion for licence production of 42 Su-30MKIs, Russian firm Rosoboronexport will deliver technical kits to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to assemble them here and a $1.3 billion contract for the delivery of 71 Mil Mi-17 military helicopters.

As a result, India is now the world 's largest arms importer and Russian-made military equipment makes up some 70 % of India 's arms purchases. Though Moscow has lost out on a number of deals to Western countries in recent years, New Delhi made up by inking deals worth billions of dollars.

These agreements inked with Russia is an indication that Russia continues to be a preferred military supplier not only in terms of hardware but also technologies which the West is still not ready for co-production of different weapons platforms.

Speaking to FE, a US based defence analyst Mathew Hoey, "What this massive purchase shows us is that the trade relationship on the military technology front between Russia and India remains strong - contrary to the hopes of the US arms industry and the Pentagon. The US State Department throwing a switch to remove India from the Blacklist did not automatically equate to preferred trade partner status - nor did it undermine the loyalty and friendship between Moscow and New Delhi."

In this backdrop, the US needs to rethink ways to win back India as its key partner in defence, feel experts.

"These deals (with Russia) surely have many in the US defense industry reassessing what it will take to ink the next multi-billion dollar deal with India.. That said, the US will have to provide real value and, at the same time, offer the most advanced technologies in order to compete whereas, Russia will get a wink and a nod now and again," Hoey pointed out.

While the US company Boeing was chosen in November last year by India over Russia 's Mil plant for a major helicopter contract, during the summit level meet, Russian Helicopters holding and India 's Elcom Systems Pvt. Ltd. signed an agreement to set up a joint venture to assemble Russian Mil and Kamov helicopters in India. The first helicopter it will start manufacturing will be the Ka-226T multirole helicopter.

Today, the India-Russia relationship is largely about defence cooperation. India wants to modernise its military and has ambitions to develop a world-class armament industry , but cannot get the technology from anywhere else than Russia. Despite the nuclear deal with the US, the gates of western technology warehouse remains shut and Indias admission to the technology control regimes remains a distant dream. Meanwhile, it is only Russia, which will hand over a nuclear submarine or jointly develop a hypersonic missile.

Apart from defence cooperation, the India-Russia relationship is running aground having hit two roadblocks Kudankulam Nuclear plant and Sistema. The Russian side is irked over its own telecom entity Seistema that has lost its licence due to recent Supreme Court order.

While Russia has been insisting all along that work on the Kudankulam number three and four units, too, be carried out under the 1988 agreement between the two nations, which has ensured immunity for Kudankulam one and two from the liability law, the government has been in a bind over how to move ahead on the "third-generation" nuclear plants being built by the Russian-owned AtomstroyExport.