Indo-Russian ties stronger than ever
The quick visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin to India in December certainly has ruffled many a feather, specifically the United States which categorically said it was ‘not time for business as usual’ with Russia considering its involvement in the Ukraine crisis. Notwithstanding these murmurs, India and Russia have further endorsed their relationship which has a place of its own in the geopolitics of the region.
This relationship has to be seen in the backdrop of the US-Pakistan relationship. Recently, the US House of Representatives accepted President Barack Obama’s argument that stopping US funding to Pakistan would hurt US interests and approved $65.8-million US aid to Pakistan for 2015. And last year, the United States is said to have released over $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan. Though relations between India and the US have considerably improved, Russia remains India’s key and strategic partner for best known reasons. Last year a BBC World Service poll indicated that 42 per cent of Russians viewed India positively with only 9 per cent expressing a negative view.
Before Russia became separate, India has had close ties with USSR, enjoying a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the collapse of USSR, Russia inherited this bonding. This bonding is built over six aspects—politics, defence, economics, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism cooperation and space. Economically, both countries have set a target for $20 billion in bilateral trade by 2015.
However, in the realm of defence, the relationship has been spread over many years. India being the second largest market for the Russian defence industry, the latter is keen on extending this in the light of India’s Make in India aspirations. India and Russia have several major joint military programmes such as the BrahMos missile programme, Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme (over 230 aircraft to be built by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), etc. The joint ventures to develop the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and the multi-role transport aircraft are testimony to the cooperation. Both countries signed a defence deal worth $2.9 billion during President Putin’s visit to India in December 2012. However, during this visit no military-technical contracts were signed as the two countries already have drawn up a portfolio of orders to 2020 that are worth $20 billion.
As military deals with many foreign suppliers are going to be on the radar, there is need for making the purchasing system transparent and efficient. The Ministry of Defence has decided to encourage registration of legalised agents with the new policy expected to be on track soon. Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd) discusses this issue wherein we see the Modi Government working already to overhaul the policy on hiring of defence agents by foreign armament companies after implementing nuanced blacklisting norms to replace the earlier indiscriminate ones. The October report mentioned that the Ministry had already held one round of top-level discussions on the policy for ‘authorised Indian representatives or agents’ and the role they can play in facilitating and smoothening arms deals in a legitimate manner.
We hope that the processes become efficient, transparent and progressive.