Originally Published 2007-12-03 00:00:00 Published on Dec 03, 2007
This report is the text of a presentation made at a seminar on ’Military-technical Cooperation between Russia and India: Status and Perspectives for Cooperation’, organised jointly by Observer Research Foundation and Unity for Russia Foundation, on October 5-7, 2007 in Moscow.
Importance of Indo-Russian Military-Technical Cooperation and Future Prospects
After India established diplomatic relations with Russia more than 60 years ago, the two nations have remained close friends. The relationship has been further consolidated through cooperation in many fields. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1971 was the cornerstone of the strategic relationship between India and Russia. More specifically, military-technical relations were among the fi rst major areas of cooperation that began in 1960.
India’s military inventories are still composed largely of Russian made weapon systems. Recent statistics indicate that India is still the leading buyer of Russian made arms and equipment. At present, acquiring of advanced foreign technologies and licensing the manufacture of military equipment is receiving priority in Indian military imports.
Indo-Russian defence cooperation derives strength from a broad-based strategic relationship. There are many projects that are currently in operation; some examples are the Brahmos cruise missile project and the licensed production of T-90 tanks for the Indian Army, SU-30 for the Indian Air Force and MiG 29 K for the Indian Navy. There are also many other projects on the anvil which include modernisation of ships, joint designing and production of medium lift helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, fifth generation fi ghter aircraft and the Glonass navigation system, among others.
The end of the Cold War, and particularly the collapse of the Soviet Union, changed many geo-political equations in international relations. India-Russia relations continued to remain close and friendly. However, while the militarytechnical cooperation continued to remain strong, in recent times, economic and strategic considerations have brought forth new challenges.
One of the main areas of concern has been and continues to be the supply of equipment and spares. It is important to consider the background to such a development. Some plants that produced the type of weapons and equipment held in the Indian Armed Forces are located outside the newly formed Russian Federation. As a result, difficulties arose in the regular and adequate supply of equipment and spares. Combined with this was escalation of prices of equipment and spares. Consequently, there was concern in India over assured and uninterrupted supply, particularly that of spares. The Indian military, therefore, began exploring other avenues for replacement of equipment and spares at affordable cost.
Seizing upon the opportunity, many armament manufacturers sought to establish themselves as alternate sources of equipment and spares to India. The French and Israelis even offered to upgrade equipment of Russian origin; it is worth noting that in the majority of cases the Indian military chose a non-Russian system only when there was no Russian option available or when the Russian offer was patently non-competitive.
The Indian Military considers Russian weapons and equipment as robust and cost- effective. They have been tested in actual combat and found to be very reliable. Russia has also been perhaps the only country which is ready to share its technology with India. India’s space research programme could have suffered adversely if Russia had not assisted it with the production of cryogenic engines while the rest of the world was unwilling to do so.
It needs to be noted that some industries manufacturing equipment currently in service in India have either closed down or are located outside the Russian Federation. However, as a part of a combination of the resurgence of Indian economy and a thrust towards greater indigenisation and self-reliance, India’s defence industry is now more eager than anytime before to enter into joint ventures and licensed production of some of these equipment. In this, it appears that the Indian defence industries are not able to establish closer interaction with the Russian industries. The need to process all interaction through the state-owned Rosoboronexport has been found to be one of the main reasons for delays and lack of adequate progress. While India respects the Russian Government’s policies in this regard, perhaps a slight modification of the existing system would be in mutual interest. I may suggest that Rosoboronexport could continue to function as before but also act as facilitator and allow a more direct and closer dialogue between Russian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the Indian buyers (Armed Forces) as well as Indian industry. In fact, both the public and private sector industries would be greatly interested in working together with their Russian counterparts. This would be very beneficial and a more efficient way to move forward together. The Indian industry is also more prepared than before to make the investments in creating the necessary infrastructure as well as in research and development (R&D). Perhaps the Russian industry could explore the route of establishing partly or wholly-owned subsidiaries in India; in short, opening an Indian industry with an Indian face.
Such an approach could remove some other minor irritants as well. In recent years it has been found that on many occasions good quality manuals for training and maintenance of equipment that is purchased are not available. Everyone understands how important it is to have actual hands-on training in the employment and exploitation of any equipment or weapon system, its repair and maintenance. The more we pay attention to some of these seemingly minor issues, faster would be the pace of building mutual confidence for closer cooperation and joint ventures.
We are now well and truly in a globalised world. It is an era of greater inter-dependence. Economic efficiency is being sought by sharing and adopting best practices in planning, designing, manufacturing and marketing of goods and services. Even countries not as friendly with each other, as our two countries are, are not only cooperating with each other but also establishing strategic relationships to serve their mutual as well as individual national interests. Russia and India with a long history of traditional and time-tested friendship should not allow technical-military cooperation between them to suffer on account of bureaucratic processes.
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