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Indian Military Dependence on Russian Equipments

  • 29 Oct 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

According to the Military Balance 2021, India's present military arsenal is heavily stocked with Russian-made or Russian-designed equipment.

  • The Military Balance is the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (global think tank) annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide.

Key Points

  • About the Report:
    • There has been a considerable drop in India’s dependence on arms and equipment from Russia.
      • However, the Indian military cannot operate effectively without Russian-supplied equipment and will continue to rely on its weapons systems in the near and middle terms.
    • The report is crucial in the pretext of the US administration's review of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
      • The CAATSA seeks to impose sanctions against the country buying military arms from Russia.
      • India’s plan to purchase Russian-made S-400 air defense systems, which could trigger US sanctions under Section 231 of CAATSA.
  • India-Russia’s Military Relations:
    • Indian Dependence: According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), since 2010, Russia has been the source of nearly two-thirds (62%) of all Indian arms imports.
      • Further, India has been the largest Russian arms importer, accounting for nearly one-third (32%) of all Russian arms exports.
    • Favourable Russian Military Exports to India: Much of Russia’s influence in India comes through its willingness to provide weapons systems and technologies that no other country will export to India.
      • The US only provides non-lethal defence technology like C-130j Super Hercules, C-13 Globemaster, P-8i Poseidon etc, while Russia provides high-end technology like Brahmos supersonic missile, S-400 anti-missile system.
      • Russia also continues to offer advanced weapons platforms at relatively attractive rates.
    • Army Cooperation: Around 10,000 pieces of military hardware are procured from Russia.
    • Naval Cooperation: Indian Navy’s sole operational aircraft carrier is a refurbished Soviet-era ship (INS Vikramaditya). The Navy’s fighter fleet comprises 43 MiG-29K.
      • Four of the Navy’s 10 guided-missile destroyers are Russian Kashin class, and six of its 17 frigates are Russian Talwar class.
      • The Navy’s sole nuclear-powered submarine is on lease from Russia, and eight of the service’s 14 other submarines are Russian-origin Kilo class.
    • Air Force Cooperation: The Indian Air Force’s 667-plane FGA (Fighter Ground Attack) fleet is 71% Russian-origin (39% Su-30s (Sukhoi), 22% MiG-21s, 9% MiG-29s).
      • All six of the service’s air tankers are Russian-made Il-78s.
    • Missile Cooperation: The country’s only nuclear-capable supersonic cruise missile, BrahMos, is produced by a joint venture with Russia.
      • The S-400 Air Defence Missile Systems is expected to be delivered by 2021.
    • Military Exercises: India and Russia conduct the INDRA series of military exercises, which began in 2003. However, the first joint Tri-Services Exercise was conducted in 2017.

Way Forward

  • Russia’s closeness with China and Pakistan has raised concerns for India. However, this closeness is tactical, mainly induced due to western sanctions, whereas Russia-India partnership is strategic.
    • This is because Russia always saw India as a balancer against growing Chinese assertiveness.
  • India can widen its procurement basket and can remain close to Russia for its strategic programmes and joint development of weapon systems.
    • Thus, decoupling India’s choice of arms suppliers from the strategic relationship it has forged with the US is the way ahead.

Source: IE

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