There may be some hiccups in the defence relationship between India and Russia, but the overall bilateral ties remain healthy, defence minister AK Antony has said.
The minister was responding to a query on an HT story on Russia questioning New Delhi’s fairness and transparency in awarding multi-billion dollar military contracts and warning that it may reconsider the way it conducts business with India.
“There may be some problems sometimes, but that will not affect the overall bilateral relationship,” Antony said.
In an exclusive interview to HT in April, Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin had said that his country might not bid for Indian military tenders in the future.
Instead of tenders, Russia now wants to sell military equipment to India directly through government-to-government deals, Kadakin had said.
Antony said, “Our ties with Russia are very solid. But trade is something different.” He said military contracts were governed by defence procurement rules and were not influenced by political decisions.
Russia has lost ground in the Indian arms market in the past few years, with international rivals winning tenders to supply modern fighter jets, mid-air refuellers, heavy-lift helicopters and attack choppers to the Indian military.
Such outcomes have weakened the standing of India’s oldest and largest arms supplier. Russia’s current defence portfolio in India is worth $20 billion (Rs. 1,08,000 crore).
Israel, the second largest defence supplier to India, has bagged business worth more than $10 billion (Rs. 54,000 crore) in the past 10-12 years. The US, currently at number three, could overtake Israel if India chooses to place some follow-on orders for platforms already contracted.
India has ordered equipment worth $8 billion (Rs. 43,200 crore) from the US in the past five years through Washington’s foreign military sales programme, a government-to-government method for selling US-built platforms.