PAK-FA is an Evolving Aircraft. Right Now, work is Underway to Build a Prototype That Both Russia and India Wants
Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation, P.S. Raghavan

P.S. Raghavan There is a sentiment that the India-Russia relationship does not have the same momentum that it did in the past. How real is this feeling?
This may be the sense of one segment within Russia. It is neither widespread nor true. If ever there was a dip in the relationship it was in the Nineties. However, by the beginning of the decade of 2000, the relationship picked up. President Vladimir Putin had expressed a public desire for strengthening the ties and we had responded equally enthusiastically. The sense that you are talking about has come up in the last four or five years; particularly in the defence sector. Because there were a number of projects that were announced or discussed but were seen by some as not making sufficient headway. Hence, it appeared that there was some sort of cooling off, but this is more a matter of perception than reality. Moreover, these things are episodic. Every time India buys something from the United States, it is magnified several times and there is disappointment in some circles in Russia.

Yet, if you look at our defence purchases, and the dependence our armed forces have on Russian platforms, it will be a long, long time before the relationship is affected and our dependence on Russia as the basic supplier of defence equipment is reduced.

The specific complaint that the Russian industry has is that India has started to buy equipment through Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route from the United States, whereas Russian companies have to compete.
It is the government’s decision to diversify defence purchases to some extent. As our Prime Minister said, we have options and we are availing those options; however, even as we avail those options, Russia will remain our biggest defence partner. We cannot stop acquiring from other countries and Russia does not have a problem with that. As long as we remain committed to the programmes we have charted out with Russia, we can move forward in a purposeful manner.

So there is nothing wrong in our relationship with Russia at a macro level?
There is nothing wrong in our bilateral relationship at the fundamental level. Yes, there was occasionally a sense of drift in recent years, but then things are changing. Our new government is also committed to strengthening the Russia relationship. In the joint press conference with President Putin last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that while we may have choices, Russia will remain our primary defence partner. He added that Russia has stood with us in our times of need. The instructions given to us are that we have to take forward the bilateral relationship with great vigour. There is disappointment in some quarters because certain programmes are not moving as quickly as the Russians would want them to. But actually if one sees carefully then a lot of things are happening.

What are these things?
At the same press conference last year, Prime Minister announced joint manufacture of helicopters in India. This is a new project to manufacture Kamov 226T. Now we are moving ahead on this programme. We have asked the Russians to come to India with a business plan, complete with timelines and technical specifications. We met up with the Russian Helicopters here at this show also. We are going to start the technical discussion very soon as to how the joint manufacturing would happen. The aircraft is well-known to us; it had also undergone trials in India earlier.

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