India, Russia Further Defence Ties

Relationship between New Delhi and Moscow has undergone significant change ever since the break up of the USSR and the end of Cold War. However, one area which has almost remained unbroken between the two countries is defence cooperation.  

India, whose current year’s defence budget is $32.5 billion (Rs. 1.5 trillion), imports over 70 per cent of its defence equipment. A vast majority of this import comes from Russia. And it’s against thus backdrop, navy chief Adm Nirmal Verma, concluded a recent visit to Russia, on an invitation from Adm Vladimir Sergeivich Vysotskiy, commander-in-chief, Russian navy. His visit was the latest in the series of high-level talks between top leaders and defence personnel from both the countries, which followed Vysotskiy’s visit to New Delhi in January.

Verma, during his trip, visited Moscow, St. Petersburg, Severodvinsk, Vladivostok and Kaliningrad and held dialogues with several senior Russian officials, including A Antonov, deputy defence minister. Verma also visited the shipyards and design bureaus that are engaged to construct ships for Indian navy. He reviewed the progress of the construction of Talwar Class follow-on warships at Yantar shipyard. Verma was assured that “Teg”, the first warship, would shortly commence trials and would be delivered in the next six to eight months. The new frigates of the class, named Trikand, Teg and Teer, are the follow-on vessels of the Talwar Class warships that New Delhi and Moscow had commissioned to service at the beginning of the last decade. In the new ships, the indigenous BRAHMOS supersonic missile will replace the Russian-made Klub missiles.

Verma, during his visit to Sevmash shipyard, where Admiral Gorshkov, the aircraft carrier is being retrofitted said, “Significant progress had been made on the Gorshkov project and the ship was shaping up well for the preliminary sea trials.” He conducted a first hand assessment of all the projects and observed that they were progressing as per schedule and had attained the critical stage of maturity. He is learnt to have expressed satisfaction as regards the repairs and quality of construction. The Mig 29KUB fighter jet to be equipped to the Gorshkov was sound, he said.

Discussions, however, was not merely confined to military hardware alone. Talks reflected the strategic importance that both the sides put on relations. For instance, the two sides discussed increasing cooperation as regards anti-piracy operation. Both India and Russia agreed to continue the INDRA series of exercise and believed that it still forms a pertinent part of bilateral relations.

New Delhi has sported fine maturity in maintaining a fine balance between Washington and Moscow. It’s careful to see that it doesn’t make one overtly happy and the other irked. In fact, the defence ministry is discounting all political considerations and is only depending on the opinion of the army, navy and air force while going for defence purchases. The narcissist Washington and the masochistic Moscow must understand that New Delhi is not out to please anybody. Russia must have scored over Washington as regards the above equipment to warrant a purchase call from India.

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