Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be inviting Russia to take part in a $3 billion light-utility helicopters project — the first big-ticket Make in India initiative in the defence sector — during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. The choppers are meant for both Indian armed forces and export.
This is the first India-Russia summit after the Modi government came to power.
Speeding up the process for setting up reactors 3 and 4 at Kudankulam without further price escalation, specific energy cooperation measures like tanker-shipments of gas, mid-sea trading will form a major part of the agenda at the summit.
Modi is also expected to take up Russia’s defence cooperation with Pakistan and China.
The deepening of India-Russia energy cooperation comes in the wake of Moscow inking a $400 billion deal with Beijing for supplying gas for 30 years earlier this year, which Putin had termed a “watershed event”.
For the chopper deal, public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or an Indian private firm could partner with a foreign firm for production of Kamov-226T helicopters. In India, the bidding for these ‘reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters’ is restricted to Indian firms and their joint venture partner.
In the first phase, the order could be for 384 helicopters, which could later be increased to 600 to replace the ailing Cheetah/Chetak fleet used by the Indian army and air force, senior government officials told HT.
This invite, rather inserted late into the programme, is intended to be a signal that India-Russia ties should go beyond the “ordinary buyer-seller” ties and reflect the true nature of a “growing partnership”. Sources said the two sides are likely to sign around 20 pacts, including two commercial ones, after the summit meeting but that this invite could send a clear “message of intent for closer ties”.
The Modi government scrapped acquisition of 197 light-utility helicopters from foreign firms; the selection process had been marred by allegations of corruption in October.
Russian Kamov-226T and Eurocopter and Bell were eying this contract. The tender was cancelled for the second time in seven years.
RSH helicopters can be used for day and night operations. They include reconnaissance and surveillance, evacuation, scout role, and aiding civil authorities to deal with any crisis.