- GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India-Russia military alliance
Context: India-Russia relations have withstood the test of time and the ever-shifting nature of national interests. Relations between the two countries have deepened with time irrespective of the challenges of realpolitik.
- This exceptional resilience is built on the firm foundation of strategic national interest and the synergy of geopolitics.
- In the post-Cold War era, India has emerged as an economic powerhouse and a key stakeholder in today’s global debate be it climate change, international trade, or the menace of terrorism.
- Russia with its global status and presence presents a win-win situation for deeper cooperation. This relation between both countries has evolved with time, deepening the integration and widening the breadth of the relation.
Recent Meeting of India-Russia
- At the 20th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military & Military Technical Cooperation held recently, the two sides concluded four agreements, contracts and a protocol.
- While three documents were signed by the officials of the two sides, the protocol was signed by the two Defence Ministers.
- This includes an agreement for manufacture of over 6 lakh AK-203 assault rifles through Joint venture in Amethi, UP, India and the renewal of the agreement on military cooperation till 2031.
What is the status of the defence trade between the two countries?
- India’s heavy Military dependence: Some of the largest deliveries by Russia to India since 2000, include supply and licensed production of T-90S tanks, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Krivak class stealth frigates, licence production of Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, Smerch multiple rocket launchers and Mi-17V-5 helicopters among others.
- Moving beyond buyer-seller relations: Russia continues to be among India’s biggest defence suppliers and the two sides are now looking to move from licence manufacture to joint research and co-development of defence equipment.
- Big ticket military deals: Russia has started deliveries of the S-400 Triumf long-range air defence systems to India. The first division will be delivered by the end of 2021.
- With the $5.43 billion S-400 as well as other big ticket deals, the defence trade between India and Russia since 2018 has crossed $15 billion. Russia’s sales with India is about 25% of the total arms exports.
- Indigenisation plans in future deals: 21 Mig-29s and 12 Su-30MKI fighters, Igla-S short-range air defence systems and the long-delayed deal for manufacture of 200 K-226T utility helicopters in India are some of deals in negotiations where issues surrounding the indigenisation plan are yet to be resolved.
What are the other avenues of cooperation other than defence sales?
- Logistics Exchange Agreement: On a broader military cooperation, a bilateral logistics support agreement, Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), as well as a Navy to Navy cooperation MoU are at advanced stages of conclusion.
- Access to Arctic: The RELOS gives India access to Russian facilities in the Arctic region which is seeing increased global activity as new shipping routes open up and in the backdrop, India’s own investments in the Russian Far East.
- Expanding Bilateral Military Exercises: The two sides are now looking at expanding format of bilateral exercises to make them more complex, more sophisticated for exchange of experiences with regard to real time combat situations, instant exercises, the impact of cyber & drone technology on modern warfare.
- In addition, the two countries are also looking at ideas for expanding India-Russia cooperation in Central Asia and possibility of supplementing bilateral exercises with trilateral and multilateral ones.
What is the future trajectory of the defence cooperation?
- Setting joint venture to speed up services: Timely supply of spares and support to the large inventory of Russian hardware in service with Indian military has been a major issue from India. To address this, Russia has made legislative changes allowing its companies to set up joint ventures in India to address it following an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 2019. This is in the process of being implemented.
- Competition forcing timely deliveries: With increased competition from the U.S., France, Israel and others who have bagged major deals in recent years, Russia is also focusing on timely deliveries and lifetime support.
- Co-production to realign with Atmanirbhar Bharat: In line with India’s quest for self sufficiency, the partnership is reorienting presently to joint research and development, co-development and joint production of advanced defence technology and systems.
- Today Russia & India are conducting joint research work on more than 100 promising topics, laying the huge groundwork for the development of high-tech industry in both countries in the future.
- Coproduction for Export: In line with above objectives, the two countries have been discussing how they can cooperate in using India as a production base for exporting to third countries Russian-origin equipment and services.
Way Forward for Indo-Russian ties
- Explore Trilateral Framework: India and Russia need to work together in a trilateral manner or using other flexible frameworks, particularly in Southeast Asia and Central Asia. Their growing collaboration can be a force of stability and will bring more diversity to the region while strengthening multilateralism.
- Leverage Public Diplomacy: Second, the two countries also need to look at peoples’ power — youth exchanges as well as deeper links in various fields including sport, culture, spiritual and religious studies.
- Tap into Cultural Congruence: Finally, Buddhism can be an area where both countries can expand their interaction, where peace and sustainability can act as a balm in this turbulent world.
Connecting the dots: