Economy

Sitharaman set to finalise $6-b Russian missile deal

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on April 01, 2018 Published on April 01, 2018

Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister   -  Shanker Chakravarty

Defence Minister to visit Moscow this week; Indian Air Force keen to buy S-400 Triumf missiles

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to finalise talks of purchasing $6-billion Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems for the Indian Air Force during her visit to Moscow on April 3-5.

This will be her first visit to Russia as India’s Defence Minister and reviving the talks for S-400 Triumf missiles is her topmost priority despite the fact that the talks have got stuck over pricing issues, sources said.

“The negotiations are at an advanced stage and if all goes well, the delivery contract may also be signed soon,” a top official, involved in the procurement process, told BusinessLine.

An intergovernmental agreement was signed between India and Russia in October 2016 on the procurement of five of these advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence systems.

The Indian Air Force is keen to procure the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system in order to deploy these at the country’s eastern and western borders to counter any potential threats from Pakistan and China.

Late last week, Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Drozhzhov had told Russian media reporters that contract may be signed this year itself.

Russian has already signed delivery contracts for S-400 with China and Turkey while negotiations with Saudi Arabia are also under way, according to diplomatic sources.

Push for MiG-29s

Apart from this, Russians are also expected to push India to purchase MiG-29s even as the Indian Air Force stares at a depleting fleet of fighters. In the backdrop of India putting aside its plan to buy single-engine fighters jets from Lockheed Martin or SAAB, Russia is believed to have upped its ante by offering the latest and advanced version of MiG-29 at a much cheaper cost, the official added.

The Indian side is also expected to discuss some of pending procurements that are in the pipeline ranging from 80 MI helicopters, Kamov-226T helicopters, frigates for the Indian Navy, nuclear submarines and T-90 battle tanks.

Besides, there could be an attempt from the Russian side to restart talks for selling the fifth generation fighter aircraft although India have rejected it for being “abhorrently expensive”, according to sources.

Sources also said the highlight of the visit is likely to be a 10-year contract to produce spare parts and upgraded systems in India by the Russians for its entire range of weapons under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

During her three-day trip, Sitharaman will also participate in the VII Moscow Conference on International Security, The minister will also be meeting her Russian counterpart army general Sergei Shoigu, and other senior leaders, according to a statement from Indian Embassy in Moscow.

Sitharaman’s visit also comes in less than a month of Russian President Vladimir Putin securing another six-year term for himself in a resounding victory during the Russian Presidential elections that was held in March.

“The visit is in keeping with the tradition of high level exchanges between India and Russia. It will provide an opportunity to reinforce the traditional warm and friendly relations that exists between the two countries with particular reference to military technical cooperation,” the statement said.

Published on April 01, 2018
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