Indo-Russian ties get a boost
Taking military cooperation to the next level, India and Russia on Wednesday signed a host of protocols including one for the joint development and production of a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA). In another agreement inked at the 6th meeting of Inter-Governmental Commission on military technical cooperation, Russia has agreed to transfer technology to India for licenced production of RD-33 engines to be installed on the Indian Air Force's MiG-29 fighters.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergei Borisovich Ivanov, who co-chaired the meeting with Defence Minister AK Antony, said that the Indian-Russian bilateral military cooperation was an expression of the strategic partnership of the two countries based on their "genuine national interests".
Ivanov also said that Russia was willing to jointly design and develop an advanced "fifth generation" fighter plane with India. He said, "India showed interest in joining this project sometime ago. It took a while to scrutinise various options. India has informed us that a final choice has been made". He said Russia would also make a pitch for the IAF's tender for 126 combat aircraft with its MiG-35 jets.
Defence minister AK Antony said India's strategic ties with Russia were "time-tested and based on mutual understanding". He said both nations had preserved and strengthened their bilateral ties, which had not been affected by internal political developments. Referring to the jointly developed supersonic cruise missile BrahMos as a "successful chapter" in Indian-Russian defence ties, Antony hoped for more such joint ventures in the coming years.
He said, "Our relationship is no longer the buyer-seller type. We are now engaging in joint research, development and production". Ivanov agreed that joint projects were an indicator of a transforming relationship.
Antony said that the MTA, to be developed in partnership with HAL, would not only be inducted in the two air forces but also be offered for commercial use and export. It will primarily have a military role but can also be modified as a passenger aircraft. Antony said India would go ahead and acquire 80 Mi-17s, 347 T-90 tanks and 40 Su-30 MKI aircraft from Russia.
Ivanov also assured New Delhi that Moscow would not allow China to supply JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircarft to Pakistan equipped with Russian RD-93 engines. He said: "We supply military hardware to foreign nations with an end-user certificate. It's applicable to the RD-93 engines. So they cannot be re-exported to any country." India and Russia signed four protocols on Wednesday to further defence cooperation.