From Strength to Strength

Growing military cooperation

India is the only country with which Russia has a Military-Technical Cooperation (MTG) for 10 years ahead. Even as this is the most important element of the bilateral strategic partnership, the two countries have diversified into military to military cooperation, something unthink able during the Soviet Union era. The Indo-Russian partnership is the opposite of Indo-US relations where military to military cooperation has a quantum lead over technical cooperation, which is yet to commence in earnest.

Unlike the earlier buyer and seller relationship, where the Soviet Union kept India on a tight leash regarding spares and product support, never parted with state-of the art weapon systems and discouraged equipment trials before selling them, the MTC is a different ball-game. The Russian defence minister, Sergey Ivanov, has recently said that, “We are prepared to transfer high technology to India in strategic tie-up based on a new pattern of defence cooperation.” The shift is towards joint license production, transfer of technologies, R&D, with moves from joint promotion of product range of Russian and Indian defence industry in foreign markets. The first success story in this area is the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which has been successfully tested in the naval and land version. The air version to be employed with SU 30MKI aircraft is expected to be achieved by end 2006. Both sides, however, have sought certain assurances from one another. Moscow wants India to sign an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) agreement that will protect its sensitive defence and high-tech information. Delhi’s position has been that all major existing contracts have appropriate secrecy and IPR clauses, and an Inter-Governmental agreement on the issue may not be necessary. However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured President Putin that Moscow’s requirement would be met. For India, a major worry relates to spares for equipment of Soviet origin. India’s ambassador to Moscow, Kanwal Sibal, told FORCE that, “We have been pressing Russia for some time for more efficient product and spare parts support for defence equipment bought by us from them. This matter figured again tat the summit (3 December 2004). The Russian side has publicly announced its readiness to set up maintenance facilities and spare part depots on Indian soild to meet our requirements and discussions will now take place on modalities and location.” It is understood that both sides have agreed that military hardware of friendly countries could also be maintained at these locations. However, Russia has told India that it should not purchase spares form other countries as Moscow cannot be held responsible for malfunctioning of platforms fitted with such spares.

India has asked Russia to conclude a MoU for providing bank guarantees on timely supply for weapon systems and spares. According to sources, Russian armament companies are running behind schedule in the supply of most of the weapon systems as also the quality of the systems provided are often not up to the mark or does not fulfil contractual obligation. Tangushka Air Defence systems are a case in point where old and rusted systems were provided which, however, were replaced once the India Army drew attention to the matter.

India wants that weapons purchase agreements should have penalty clauses, like its armament purchases from western nations. Russia, on its part, has emphasized that Indo Russian defence procurement should move from the Rouble-Rupee preferential era to commercial Western model that is based on pure commercial Western model that is based on pure commercial terms. India accounts for 35 per cent of Russian arms exports, and has signed contracts worth US$ five billion. These include the SU-30 aircraft, license production of T-90S tanks, Admiral Gorshkov with MiG-29K aircraft amongst others.

Regarding the military-to-military cooperation the two sides have agreed to more interaction at various levels. At present, there is a regular interaction between the two National Security Council staffs. They meet alternatively at Delhi and Moscow and discuss issues encompassing review of global and regional security situation, terrorism, area perspectives such as Central Asia, technology information sharing and so on. Dialogue is also conducted at the level of National Security Advisor or his Deputy; participants from MEA, intelligence agencies and Integrated Defence Staff participate on as required basis. At the functional level, deputy chief IDS (policy, plans and force development) is responsible for the military-to-military cooperation with representatives from services providing desired inputs.

A new dimension to this cooperation is added by Russian keenness to undertake joint exercises with India. Near future should see Indo-Russia cooperation in Counter Insurgency training, Special Forces and joint naval and air exercises. An uncorroborated report indicates that India and Russia would also like to upgrade their collaboration in Central Asia particularly in bordering states like Tajikistan, Where India maintains a small detachment and is involved in upgrading its air facilities.


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