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India, Russia to ink military pact
Published on 10 Oct. 2009 11:03 PM IST
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The US might be the new kid on the block, with Israel and France already well-entrenched, but India is keen to keep its long-standing military ties with Russia on the right track despite glitches, time and cost-overruns in defence deals. India and Russia will extend their `strategic and military partnership’ by another 10 years when PM Manmohan Singh holds a summit meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow this December. The groundwork for inking of the fresh inter-governmental agreement on military-technical cooperation, to extend the partnership right till 2020, will be laid when defence minister A K Antony visits Moscow next week for talks with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov. According to the Times of India Russia will remain India’s largest defence supplier for some time to come, with ongoing arms contracts and projects in the pipeline worth well over a whopping $15 billion. The relationship will only head further north since India has shown interest in acquiring more Russian military hardware and software. This, for instance, includes 50 more Sukhoi-30MKIs to add to 230 of these `air dominance’ fighters already contracted for over $8.5 billion, as also an additional 29 MiG-29Ks for $1.12 billion after the first 16 of these maritime jets were bought for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. Then, of course, there are three crucial joint R&D projects. One, the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), whose overall development costs are pegged by Russia to be around $8-10 billion. “During the October 14-15 meeting, Antony will emphasis India’s interest in ensuring FGFA’s development is completed by 2016 and IAF can begin inducting it by 2017,’’ said an official. Two, the $600 million multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) project, under which India will induct an initial 45 planes, while Russia will get 100 and another 60 will be sold to other countries. “An MTA joint venture company between Hindustan Aeronautics and Ilyushin will be established soon,’’ he said. And three, development of 290-km-range `hypersonic’ BrahMos-2 cruise missiles (5 to 7 Mach speed) after the successful development of its `supersonic’ (2.8 Mach) version. Incidentally, work is also in progress now to integrate BrahMos-1 missiles on Sukhoi-30MKIs. All, of course, is not hunky dory in the expansive Indo-Russian military relationship. With the Soviet-era `friendship prices’ having vanished into oblivion, Russia now demands -- and often gets -- top dollar from India. Fierce wrangling over the huge escalation in Gorshkov’s refit cost has been there for all to see. India is now likely to pay a staggering $2.6 billion to get the 44,570-tonne carrier by 2012-2013. Under the original $1.5 billion package deal signed in January 2004, India was to get Gorshkov by August 2008 for $974 million, with the rest earmarked for 16 MiG-29Ks. India remains worried about Russia not sticking to delivery schedules, creating roadblocks in technology transfer, jacking up costs midway through execution of agreements and failing to provide proper product support. India, of course, realises only Russia will be ready to supply it with some `sensitive’ stuff. Sometime early next year, for instance, India will get the K-152 Nerpa Akula-II nuclear-powered submarine from Russia on a 10-year lease as part of a secretive 2004 deal.

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