India and Russia are in the final stages of negotiations to purchase S-400 air defence systems two years after their initial deal on the matter. A commercial contract is expected to be signed soon and could happen on Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden trip to Moscow as defence minister in the first week of April, according to persons with knowledge of the matter.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) recently told the parliamentary panel on defence that the procurement of the S-400 air defence systems developed by Russia is imperative to tackle possible threats from China and Pakistan. The parliamentary panel, on its part, has recommended that funds for this be made available during the year as per the IAF demand.
India and Russia have been working on the final commercial contract since October 2016, when the two sides concluded an intergovernmental agreement for the procurement of five S-400 systems, 200 Kamov helicopters, some of which will be bought and the rest made in India, and four stealth frigates. During Arun Jaitley’s visit to Moscow last year as defence minister the two sides expedited the process of concluding contracts for these. Work on the stealth frigates have started.
The S-400 systems are capable of intercepting and destroying airborne threats at a distance of up to 250 miles and can simultaneously engage up to six targets. Each S-400 comprises tracking and search radar systems, eight launchers, 112 guided missiles, and command and support vehicles.
China was the first global customer of the S-400, said to be the world’s most potent air defence system. It was delivered to China last year. Russia is also expected to begin implementing the contract on delivery of S-400 systems to Turkey in early 2020.
Meanwhile, apart from the attempt to conclude the impending S-400 air defence system deal, Sitharaman is also expecting to move forward discussions on proposed bilateral collaboration on the development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). There will also be talks on spare parts, maintenance, upgradation and ammunition for Russian-made defence systems. She will also participate in the Moscow international security conference.
The two sides are also focusing on other areas to expand ties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first leaders to congratulate President Vladimir Putin on his re-election. At the same time, three Russian ministers—handling economic development, transportation and agriculture–were in Delhi meeting their counterparts.
The two countries are currently in negotiations for Moscow’s assistance on a high-speed railway project between Nagpur and Secunderabad, besides Russian technology for river transportation utilising India’s vast river network. These issues were discussed when Russian Transport Ministers met his counterparts here. River transport is a cheaper mode of connectivity than road. Yet another emerging area of cooperation is IT and IT solutions. Nasscom signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Russian counterpart Russoft last Monday for projects in India and third countries.
India and Russia are eyeing third-country collaboration in various sectors in Africa and Asean in areas ranging from technological solutions to development projects and harnessing natural resources.
Meanwhile, in a bid to boost bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2025, Russia has asked Indian startups to play the role of catalysts to bring large Indian companies and Russian investors closer. The two governments have agreed to give high priority to the removal of obstacles to trade in order to improve upon the 21.5% growth in two-way trade recorded last year, according to Russia’s deputy minister for economic development Alexey Gruzdev, who also visited Delhi earlier this week.
India has pointed out that connectivity, the engagement between Russian regions and states, collaboration in the energy sector (hydrocarbon and nuclear), high-tech cooperation besides defence and security are focus areas for future collaboration.
SOURCE : ET