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By Bulbul Singh

05 Oct 08. Pressure is mounting on Indian defence planners to procure weapons and equipment from other than Russian sources as several defence projects worth billions of dollars are getting delayed. This is mainly due to Moscow’s insistence on increasing prices beyond the contracted amount. In addition, Russia has declined to transfer technology of several defence projects under negotiations.

Indian defence ministry officials said in private that Moscow is “arms- twisting” India to agree to their terms on Transfer of Technology. Meantime, senior officials of the Indian Armed forces have written to the Indian defence ministry in the last one year to approach other then Russian sources in procuring futuristic weapons and equipment. Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, “Senior high ranking Indian Armed forces officials have told the Indian defence ministry that weaponry of Russian origin worth over $15 billion, including air defence systems, a variety of missiles, platforms, are in disuse for want of spares and upgrades.”

Indian Armed forces currently use a large proportion of equipment requirements of USSR origin which needs replacement and upgrade. This affects the combat worthiness of defence forces. However, Russia has taken up a rather “obstructive posture” said a sources in the Indian defence ministry with regard to supply of spares and even upgrades and replacements of existingsystems.

The majority of Russian-made air defence systems urgently need upgrades, but are not going ahead due to either lack of spares or refusal by Russia to transfer technology. A case in point is the Pechora air defence systems which have been waiting for upgrade for nearly five years. Russia says that in case they are done by another country there will be no guarantees on future supplies of spares and equipment. “Russia is not parting with Technology Transfer for the existing air defence systems and is demanding steep costs.” said sources in the Indian Army.

The delivery of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshoov, contracted in 2005, is now unsure as Moscow has demanded over $1.2bn over and above the contracted price of refit of around $800m.

“The Indian side raised the matter during the September 29 visit of Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, but without any tangible result.” said a senior Indian defence ministry official. Details of what India and Russia reached during Serdyukov’s visit is to form an apex Committee. The official said the committee will “iron out problems on a fast-track basis on different issues” between the two countries.

Currently around 75 defence projects are being negotiated between India and Russia including the licensed production of T-90S tanks at Indian facilities, for which Russia has to part with drawings and Technology Transfer of critical parts.

Besides the reluctance to transfer technology, Russia is persisting in its refusal to sign an integrity pact and late payment penalties. Russia is demanding exemptions from the integrity clause for government to government deals in the defence sector.

Moscow is demanding that the Indian defence ministry should pay a penalty due to delay in pending payments for past defence contracts, especially in the case of Kilo class submarine upgrade, Krivak class stealth frigates, MIG 29K aircraft and Russian air-to-air missiles.

While India atempts an agreement to the Russians conditions, the fact remains that Indian defence forces will continue to depend on Russian weaponry and equipment and will need spares. Besides, Russia has given India the technology for the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and is building two nuclear submarines, contracted secretly. As ong as other western sources do not guarantee free flow of critical technologies to India without any hindrances, India will continue

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