Niramala Sitharaman on Russia visit from April 3; major defence deals in focus

Apart from the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon system deal, Nirmala Sitharaman likely to seal deals for MiG-29, KA-226T, Mi-17 V5, 2 Frigates and other spares & weapon upgrade technology for Russian systems in Indian service.

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India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000 km Sino-India border. (Reuters)

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to take up the S-400 Triumf deal for India during her visit to Russia between April 3rd to April 5th. This is a key deal for India to step up its defence preparedness and deterrence capabilities. The S-400 Triumf deal might be the primary agenda of the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during this visit to Moscow. The first agreement to look into the contract to procure the S-400 Triumf, a multifunctional medium and long-range anti-aircraft weapon system (AAMS), was signed between India and Russia in 2016. China was actually the first buyer of the S-400 Triumf. India, which is now likely to seal the deal with Russia at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore, wishes to procure this anti-aircraft weapon system to reduce the threat along China and Pakistan borders.

The anti-aircraft missile system was developed by the Russian state-owned company called Almaz-Antey Corporation. The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 AAMS. The new S-400 Triumf that India wants to acquire has multifunction radar complex inclusive of altitude radar system, four anti-aircraft guided missiles launchers and mobile tower for antenna checkpoint. The anti-aircraft weapon system also boasts of being capable of destroying enemy fighter jet aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, missiles and spy drones and planes ranging up to a distance of 400km at the maximum altitude of 3000 meters.

The Indian Air Force is facing acute shortage of fighter squadrons. The current strength of fighter squadrons is 32, making it lowest in a decade. India currently needs at least 42 squadrons to protect its Northern and Western borders against Pakistan and China. With a shortage of at least 8 squadrons and each squadron hosting at least 18 fighter jets, the figure that India lacks now is that of 144 fighter jets. The Indian Air Force now primarily depends on Russian made MiG-21 & Su-30 MKI, U.K made SEPECAT Jaguar, French-made Mirage 2000 and six indigenously-made HAL Tejas. India is yet to receive 36 French Rafales and 40 HAL Tejas fighter jets. The existing force might also lose another 14 squadrons by 2020, putting India in dire need of strengthening its armed forces.

Apart from the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon system deal, Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to seal several other impending defence deals with Russia. Ahead of her visit, Russia has already offered 21 MiG-29 fighter aircraft to India. Despite, the MiG-29s that are already being in service, this new deal will help India fight its fighter-jet crunch. India might also see some further development in its bid to get KA-226T helicopters. The first inter-governmental agreement was signed in 2015 and Russia had told the media in 2017, that it will be delivering 200 helicopters to Indian in another nine years. The Russian Helicopters and HAL have already struck the deal to assemble the helicopters in Tumakuru, in Karnataka. The acquiring the flyaway condition helicopters and also the required technology to assemble in India is likely to be finalised during this visit. India might also sign deals for acquiring more Mi-17 V5 armed-transport helicopters.

Apart from the major deals to procure weapons, India will also work towards a new framework agreement and contract with Russia to make spares, weapon upgrade technology for Russian systems in Indian service. As per India’s Make in India initiative, the Defence Ministry wants the spares and upgrading work to be made in India. This will help India to boost its Make-II procedure and also fuel Russia’s business to make spares for T-90 tanks, Sukhoi jets, MI and Kamov copters and other frigate spares. India is also likely to procure 2 frigates for the Navy.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who is ready to visit Russia, tweeted saying that the agenda of the visit was to reinforce “traditional warm relations between the two countries” and to particularly focus on the military-technical cooperation. India will also be a key participant in the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security. Apart from participating from in 7th Moscow Conference on International Security, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will also be meeting her counterpart Army General Sergei Shoigu and other senior leaders.

The Ministry of Defence in the Russian Federation will be organising its 7th annual conference on International Security. The conference will be held in Moscow on April 4th and 5th. As per the official website of the conference, the main focus of the conference will be on issues in Syria, combating ISIS and post-conflict rehabilitation in West Asia. The conference will also discuss security issues in facing Europe, South-Asia, Africa and Latin America. India, a major regional player is likely to participate in raising concerns over security issues in South-Asian region in the conference.

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First published on: 02-04-2018 at 18:30 IST