First military team heads to Russia to train on S-400 air defence systems
The first group of Indian military specialists is set to travel to Russia for training in operating the S-400 air defence systems, deliveries of which are set to start this year against the backdrop of possible US sanctions.
Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev on Tuesday described the upcoming departure of the Indian military team as a “remarkable occasion” that will usher in “a new stage in our strategic partnership”.
He defended the $5.4 billion deal with India for five S-400 systems as part of Russia’s “bilateral and multilateral commitments” within the framework of “just and equal relations based on the international law and the UN Charter”.
Kudashev was speaking at an event hosted by the Russian embassy in honour of the first team of Indian military specialists heading to Russia for the S-400 training courses.
“S-400 supplies initiative is one of the flagship projects in the Russian-Indian military and military-technical cooperation, which historically constitutes the main pillar of the special and privileged strategic partnership between our two friendly countries,” he said.
“It is based on mutual trust and reflects the true spirit of our bilateral and multilateral commitments in the framework of our vision towards just and equal relations based on the international law and the UN Charter.”
Kudashev had said last month that Russia’s ongoing deals with India for military hardware, including S-400 air defence systems, were “advancing well” despite the threat of potential US sanctions.
India and Russia signed the $5.4 billion deal for five S-400 systems in October 2018, and the first batch is expected to be delivered by the end of 2021. All deliveries will be completed in a five-year period, Russia has said.
The outgoing Trump administration in the US has reportedly told India it is unlikely to get a waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the acquisition of the S-400, raising the risk of sanctions similar to those imposed on Turkey for buying the same systems.
The Indian side is now keeping a close watch on the approach that will be adopted by the incoming Biden administration to arms purchases from Russia.
Earlier this month, the external affairs ministry defended the S-400 deal as part of India’s independent foreign policy that guides defence acquisitions in line with national security interests.
“India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership. India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia,” ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
“India has always pursued an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisitions and supplies which are guided by our national security interests,” he added.
Kudashev said Russia was also “successfully moving towards implementation” of several other arms deals, including the production of more than 700,000 AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles by a joint venture in India, the supply of 200 Ka-226 helicopters and production in India, advanced cooperation in combat aviation, main battle tanks, frigates, submarines and missiles, and joint production of the BrahMos cruise missile.
The two countries are “deeply involved” in joint development and production of military equipment, components and spare parts, sharing of technologies and improving after-sales service. “We have developed an advanced legal base for this purpose,” he said.
The India-Russia partnership is “becoming even stronger” in new areas and forms of mutually beneficial and forward-looking cooperation as the world moves from a bipolar order towards the “establishment of the polycentric order”, and this is “absolutely true for our military and military-technical ties”, Kudashev said.
Russia is also looking towards the early implementation of a spare parts joint production agreement, which would fit well with the “Make in India” and “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” initiatives, he said. “Work also is going on [on] the mutual logistics support agreement, strengthening maritime cooperation, including in the Indian Ocean,” he added.
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