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INDIA – RUSSIA DEFENSE TIES COME UNDER STRAIN AGAIN

INDIA – RUSSIA DEFENSE TIES COME UNDER STRAIN AGAIN
By Bulbul Singh

13 Jun 07. A stand-off has emerged between two traditional long -term partners, Russia, and India over as Moscow is insisting on re-negotiating several defence deals which have already been finalized earlier, including the sale of SU 30 aircraft to India.

Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, “the Russians are insisting on a price increase on several of the already contracted weaponry and equipment deals which includes the sale of SU 30 aircraft, the supply of kits to the ongoing license production of SU 30 MKI aircraft at Indian facilities signed under a MoU in 2001, the sale of 350 T-90S tanks and other programs. The increase would cost the Indian government over $3bn over and above the price finalized earlier.”

While a Russian diplomat said the increase is being sought on account of the falling dollar sources in the Indian defence ministry said, Moscow is taking an “unusual tough position” vis a vis its defence supplies to India.

Besides, Moscow is even wanting a price increase in the already contracted Kilo class submarine upgrade in Russia and also the building of three Krivak class stealth frigates for the Indian Navy in Russia contracted last year.

Russia’s hardening posture is also coupled with its insistence not to sign an integrity pact, which is a mandatory condition to be fulfilled by foreign overseas vendors as per the revised Defence Procurement Procedures of the Indian government in 2006.

Under the 2006, rules every defence contract worth more than $25m must be accompanied by an integrity pact, an undertaking that no arms agents are involved and no commissions have been paid.

Sources also said that Russia has also given the permission to China to use Russian engines in the JF-17 aircraft being jointly developed by China and Pakistan. New Delhi has been using all channels available to block the permission of engines for the project, and had even taken up the matter during Russian President Putin’s visit to India in January 2007. The re-export of the Russian RD-93 engines for the JF-17 aircraft will give a big boost to the Indian Air Force as it plans to buy 150 of the JF-17 aircraft.

The JF-17 aircraft would be replacing the aging fleet of Mirage, F-7s and A-5s. The aircraft is being considered as a match for the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), currently under development. The JF-17 Thunder aircraft is a 50:50 joint venture between Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

The current tough posturing of Moscow could lead to a dramatic slowdown in purchases from the traditional arms supplier to India said a New Delhi based defence analyst adding that in case Russia goes ahead in allowing permission for the supply of engines for the JF-17 aircraft then it could give a blow to the hitherto excellent defence ties between India and China.

In case Russia does not sign the integrity pact, then a number of defence contracts could be in jeopardy including the joint production of a fifth generation aircraft between the two countries and the Multirole Transport Aircraft.

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