NEW DELHI, ($1= Indian Rupees) — In recent weeks, India has suspended deals with Russia to sell MiG-29s, attack and transport helicopters, and anti-tank systems. The news was announced by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu in a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. “What we’ve seen from India is the cancellation of MiG-29 orders, Russian helicopter orders, and anti-tank weapon orders.”
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In his statement, Donald Lu did not cite exactly which deals failed. BulgariaMilitary.com reminds us that India and Russia have joint production in several military areas, including the hypersonic BrahMos cruise missile and assault rifles and light machine guns under Kalashnikov’s license. However, Donald Lu does not mention these weapons systems as an opportunity to be abandoned by India.
India has already received the first batch of S-400 air defense systems from Russia, and it appears that this deal is not part of New Delhi’s plans to terminate it. The conscientious production of Indian Su-30MKI fighters is also unlikely to be affected.
Most likely, Lu is talking about approved the acquisition of 21 MiG-29 jets from Russia in 2020, according to ANI. In July 2021, Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation spokesperson, Valeria Reshetnikova, said that the Indian Air Force had received a tender request for the supply of the aircraft. “The Russian side has transferred to Indian partners the commercial offer that is now being considered by the customer,” Reshetnikova had said.
India is interested also in the Russian twin-engine Russian utility helicopter Ka-226. New Delhi’s interest in this purchase may also have cooled. Lu said that it will be difficult for any country to continue purchasing military equipment from Russia after the United States imposed sanctions on Moscow.
Is Ukraine the reason?
It is difficult to guess, but the reason for refusing to buy Russian weapons may not be just one. Ukraine is one of the possibilities. India abstained during a vote on a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To appease its Western partners, including many European countries and the United States, New Delhi may have decided to turn down interest and deals in buying Russian weapons.
Another reason is the economic sanctions that India may face from the United States. In this tense war in Europe, support for Moscow through the purchase of Russian weapons would not be well received by Washington. Joe Biden has long threatened India with sanctions over the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, but so far with failure.
A third reason is India’s gradual detachment from Russian dependence in recent years. New Delhi is already beginning to think about developing its own helicopters, armored ground vehicles, including light tanks. Although licensed to produce Russian T-90 tanks for the Indian Army, New Delhi is working hard to develop and upgrade its Arjun tank. BulgariaMilitary.com recalls that on September 23, the Indian Ministry of Defense awarded a contract to the local state-owned Heavy Vehicle Factory [HVF] for the supply of 118 main Arjun Mk-1A battle tanks to the Indian Army.
The decline in Russian dependence on Indian military production is also seen in other areas of defense. India and France have agreed to co-produce helicopter engines. New Delhi has invested heavily in its 4th-generation Tejas Mk2 fighter jet, signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to produce wings for the F-16, and signed a contract with Germany to supply engines for India’s light tank.
Last but not least, France and India are doing an excellent job in the navy and air force. France is the most likely supplier of Indian submarines and is helping New Delhi develop frigates as well as India’s first aircraft carrier.
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