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Shoigu arrives in India to discuss prospects of military technical cooperation

Sources in the Indian defense ministry told TASS that the Russian minister was to discuss the implementation of the joint project of a fifth generation fighter jet — FGFA

MOSCOW, January 21. /TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Wednesday arrived on a visit to India, where he will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar.

Apart from that, Shoigu will attend a session of the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission on Military and Technical Cooperation and will visit the Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace Limited that makes supersonic cruise missiles.

No official information about topics of Shoigu’s bilateral meetings is available but sources in the Indian defense ministry told TASS that the Russian minister was to discuss the implementation of the joint project of a fifth generation fighter jet — FGFA. In 2014, the project came under criticism from the Indian air force command who said that Russia was unlikely to be able to fulfill all of its liabilities under the project. Future military technical cooperation between India and Russia would depend on this project, the sources said.

Apart from that, the Russian-Indian Intergovernmental Commission is to consider another joint project — a medium-lift transport jet, and to discuss other subjects, including Russia’s leasing out another nuclear-powered submarine to India. Yet another subject for discussion will be production of Ka-226T helicopters in India. The issue was raised in December during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi. Back then, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia’s defense sector, said that India would manufacture up to 400 such rotorcraft a year.

The key goal of Shoigu’s visit to India is to give a fresh impetus to cooperation between the two countries’ defense ministries, according to Ruslan Pulhov, director of the Strategy and Technology Analysis Center. “India is Russia’s key partner in terms of military technical cooperation but in the recent years Russia has had problems on the Indian arms market,” he said. “These problems stemmed from asynchronous development of military technical and defense cooperation between the two countries. For instance, Russia regularly cancelled joint military exercises.”

Nonetheless, Russia seeks to maintain close relations with India in the defense sector, said Tatiana Shaumyan, head of the Center for Indian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies. “India is one of our most important partners in terms of arms supplies. It is our market, a very profitable market. We have joint development, designing and production of military hardware with the Indians,” she told TASS, citing such projects as cruise missiles, fifth generation jets and tanks.

According to Shaumyan, Shoigu’s visit to India “is a kind of continuation of the discussions started during President Putin’s visit to India.” However, in her words, new subjects would be raised during Shoigu’s visit. “For instance, the designing and production of military hardware. We have good prospects in this area,” she noted.

Sources at India’s defense ministry told TASS the India military demonstrated interest to joint projects. The production of jointly developed BrahMos ultrasonic missiles was still a topical issue, the source said. It is planned to equip Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets used by the Indian Air Force with such missiles.

Next Sunday, US President Barack Obama will arrive on a visit to India, too. In the recent years, the United States has been the biggest player on the Indian weapons market. Russia has lost a number of tenders, including the ones for the supplies of multi-purpose fighter jets to a sum of more than ten billion US dollars (Russia offered the MiG-35 in 2007), and for the supply of helicopters to a sum of about 1.5 billion US dollars (Ka-226T in 2009). The Americans have won a number of major contracts with India. Thus, India bought US AH-64D helicopters, preferring them to Russia’s Mi-28NE. Washington and New Delhi are launching joint development and production of military hardware too. The launch of pilot projects is expected to be announced during Obama’s visit.

Military technical cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow is likely to be impacted by Russia’s expanding ties with Islamabad. Pakistan and Russia are reportedly negotiating a helicopter deal, which, according to the Times of India, arouses concern of the Indian side. However, other arms market players, such as the United States and France, sell their weapons to both countries too, the newspaper noted. Defense cooperation between Russia and Pakistan is on the rise. In late November 2013, the Russian defense minister paid a visit to Pakistan, the first one in the recent decades. The visit was crowned by the signing of a defemce cooperation agreement.

Russian experts not however that India has some problems with arms contracts with Western countries as well. As was recently reported, no new helicopter deals will be inked during Obama’s visit, although the Indian military have already approved the purchase of US helicopters. A contract for the purchase of the French-made Rafale fighter jets (the tender was held back in 2012, when Russia’s MiG-35 lost to the Rafale) is still being negotiated. According to the Indian media, in case this contract fails, New Delhi may buy an extra batch of Russian Su-30MKI’s.