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Naval cooperation between Russia and India will remain strong so long as India retains its large legacy of Russian origin equipment

Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd) Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)

In August 1964, India’s defence minister, Y.B. Chavan visited the USSR to explore for the first time supplies of defence equipment including submarines and destroyers for the Indian Navy (IN). He obtained a positive response. During a follow-up visit in 1965, the USSR agreed to supply three Foxtrot class submarines and five Petya class patrol vessels and offered deferred credits for Rupee payment spread over 10 years at an interest rate of two per cent.

The first submarine, INS Kalvari, commissioned in December 1967, beginning an enduring naval relationship, which would see eight Kalvari (Foxtrot) and 10 Sindhughosh (Kilo) class submarines, one Vikramaditya (Kiev) class aircraft carrier, five Rajput (Kashin) class destroyers, six Talwar (Krivak III) class frigates, 10 Arnala (Petya) class patrol vessels, three Vijaydurg (Nanuchka) class corvettes, 16 Veer (Osa) class missile boats, four Abhay (Pauk) class ASW corvettes, an Ugra Class submarine tender (Amba), a Komandarm Fedko class tanker (Jyoti), 12 Pondicherry (Natya) class ocean minesweepers and six Mahe (Yevgenya) class inshore minesweepers being built for the Indian Navy by Russian shipyards, while two nuclear submarines (both named Chakra) were transferred on lease. Even today, 28 warships built in Russian shipyards serve the IN.

When the IN moved to constructing its own warships, Russian support continued. Amongst the first beneficiaries were Trishul and Talwar, which were retrofitted with Styx (P 15) missiles. The experience gained in marrying a Soviet origin weapon to a British origin platform led to the idea of mating the missiles and guns of Nanuchka class corvettes to the hull of the modified Leander class frigates built by Mazagon Docks, resulting in the Godavari Class of ships. A range of warships using substantial quantities of Russian origin equipment was thereafter constructed in India, including the Kolkata and Delhi class destroyers, Brahmaputra and Shivalik class frigates, the Kamorta, Kora, Khukri and Veer class corvettes, and Car Nicobar class patrol vessels. INS Arihant, to commission shortly, owes its existence to Russian help in design as well as provision of some equipment.

The heyday of the relationship was in the last three decades of the 20th century. There is a perception of decline in cooperation levels since then. Some factors underlying this perception are as follows:

INS Talwar
INS Talwar

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