Russian President Vladimir Putin’s India visit is likely to strengthen bilateral defence ties that had frayed in recent years after Moscow lost several big-ticket military contracts to European and American manufacturers.
Russia’s offer on Thursday to build one of its most advanced helicopters in India could be the stepping stone for the two countries to explore newer areas of defence cooperation, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign.
Modi proposed to Russia that it should locate manufacturing facilities in India for spares and components of Russian equipment in the Indian arsenal. This is significant as some of the irritants in bilateral ties include a problem of steady supply of spares and poor vendor support after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
With India and Russia agreeing to take military cooperation to the next level, some projects that could be accelerated include the joint design and development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft at a cost of $35 billion and the multi-role transport aircraft project. Both countries tout the world’s only supersonic cruise missile Brahmos as a success story in the field of military joint ventures.
Underlining that Russia was India’s foremost defence partner, Modi said, “My first visit outside Delhi as Prime Minister was to our new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya (bought from Russia). It sails our seas as a great symbol of our defence cooperation.” He said while India’s options had increased, Russia would remain the country’s most important defence partner.