Amid fear of US sanctions, India continues military purchases from Russia

INS Chakra [File] The in-service INS Chakra, an Akula class submarine leased from Russia | Indian Navy

Notwithstanding fear of sanctions by the United States, India is going ahead with a series of defence deals with Russia. In the recent months, New Delhi has expressed confidence in its old and trusted ally by concluding an over half a dozen military procurement agreements. Latest in the series is a $3 billion deal to lease a third nuclear-powered submarine. The agreement was signed in New Delhi on Thursday and the submarine would be delivered to the Indian Navy by 2025.

In the last few years, it was observed that the US is selling huge defence platforms to India. In the last ten years, Washington has sold weapons worth $18 billion to India that includes Apache and Chinook helicopters, C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft, and M 777 ultra-light Howitzers among others. However, the United States and India are also working closely to continue the strategic partnership, as for the first time, both countries conducted its 2+2 dialogue between the foreign affairs and defence ministers of both sides in New Delhi.

According to the US law—Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)—the country can impose sanctions on any country that has "significant transactions" with Iran, North Korea or Russia.

But in last one year, New Delhi has reimposed its confidence in Moscow. It is notable that 70 per cent of Indian military equipment are of Russian-origin.

In October last year, India had gone ahead with signing the $5.43 billion deal with Russia for five S-400 Triumf missile shield systems. The game changer S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile system has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircrafts, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km. Only Russia and the US have such long range modern air defence system. Each system of S-400 includes a command and control centre, a 3D phased array acquisition radar, optional tracking radar and firing units with associated multi-mode engagement radar. Experts claim that the acquisition radar can not only detect and track up to 300 targets within a distance of 600km but also can engage 36 targets at one point.

Soon after S-400, India also went ahead signing a $950 million deal to supply two frigates directly from Russia and a contract to build two more at Indian shipyard.

Moreover, India and Russia have recently concluded an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) for 200 helicopters estimated to cost over $1 billion. As per the deal, 60 helicopters will be imported from Russia and at least another 140 will be built in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) with technology transfer.

Only last month, India and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement to jointly manufacture Russian origin AK-203 7.62 mm rifles at the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) facility in Uttar Pradesh. Explaining the details of the agreement, 40,000 AK-203 rifles will be directly imported for the Indian Army over the next few months, following which the joint venture is expected to manufacture 70,000 units per year until the entire contract is completed under New Delhi's 'Make in India' initiative.

Besides concluding multiple deals, procurement of a new squadron of Sukhoi 30MKI jets is under process alongwith advanced talks on an additional squadron for MiG 29 UPG fighters. In order to close the gap in its combat squadron strength, IAF will be procuring at least 18 Su-30MKI and 21 additional MiG 29K in coming months.

Procurement of Russian origin Igla-S system of very short range air defence missiles system worth $ 1.5 billion for the Indian Army is also at an advanced stage and Russia became the lowest bidder in the global tender. The deal is presently at contract negotiations stage.

The issue of payments and money transfer between the two nations came as a major roadblock, but authorities claim that the problem has been addressed. Both sides have agreed to use the national currencies for payments (rupee-rouble exchange).