Russia has questioned New Delhi’s fairness and transparency in awarding multi-billion dollar military contracts, and warned that it may have to reconsider doing business with India.
“We know what gimmicks are used to manipulate deals,” Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin told HT in an exclusive interview, adding that his country may not bid for Indian military tenders in the future. “Sometimes, terms of tenders are crafted specifically to get the required results.”
The statement comes in the wake of Russia losing 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.
Russia’s current defence portfolio in India is worth $20 billion (Rs. 1,08,000 crore).
But such outcomes have weakened the standing of India’s oldest and largest arms supplier.
Israel, the second largest defence supplier to India, has bagged business worth more than $10 billion (Rs. 54,000 cr) 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.
Instead of tenders, Russia now wants to sell military equipment to India directly through government-to-government deals, Kadakin said.
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.
“If we emerge number two, it doesn’t mean our platform is any worse. But it sends out that impression and causes damage to our reputation,” Kadakin said. He added that Russia had stood by India when strictest sanctions were imposed on the country after it conducted nuclear tests.
Kadakin acknowledged that India, being “an emerging superpower”, had the right to build defence ties with other countries, but was quick to point out that unlike “some newly-acquired partners”, Russia had never hesitated to transfer the most sensitive defence technologies to India.
“Name a country that will lease you a nuclear submarine. Will the Americans, the British or the French lease you such a platform?” Kadakin asked, referring to the Akula-II nuclear-powered attack submarine leased to India by Russia last year. “This is the unique character of our privileged strategic partnership. Your people have to realise this.”