NEW DELHI: From clinching deals on
Kalashnikov assault rifles and very-short range air defence missile systems
(VSHORADS) to a military logistics pact, upgraded combat exercises and more
joint projects, Russia is now looking to challenge the US as India’s
pre-eminent strategic partner and defence supplier.
Ahead of the annual Modi-Putin summit on December 6, coinciding with the inaugural
two-plus-two dialogue between their foreign and defence ministers, hectic
negotiations are currently underway to put finishing touches on a wide-ranging
While there is now deep India-US
strategic congruence across the spectrum, with New Delhi also inking defence
deals worth over $21 billion with Washington since 2007, Russia wants to assert
its long-standing special strategic partnership with India. Russia,
incidentally, has notched up military sales worth well over $65 billion to
India since the early-1960s.
Russia is also apprehensive about India’s
determined push for self-reliance in defence production. But it can take heart
that the decks have finally been cleared for the long-pending Rs 5,124 crore
project to manufacture over six lakh AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles at Korwa
ordnance factory in UP’s Amethi, even as the $1.5 billion deal for India to
acquire VSHORADS from Russia is also now in the “final stages”, said sources.
The shoulder-fired Russian anti-aircraft missile system IGLA-S, which was
selected over French and Swedish systems in the fray, is designed for use
against visible enemy targets like aircraft, helicopters and drones.