Indo-Russian Defence Cooperation continues despite misgivings
The 16th meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), held in New Delhi on Wednesday, noted with satisfaction that all the subgroups met and submitted their reports to enhance military-technical cooperation between the two countries.
The Indian side was headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the Russian delegation was led by his counterpart General Sergey Shoigu.
Welcoming the delegation, Parrikar expressed his pleasure at this meeting being held very soon after the highly successful 17th Annual Summit between Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin in his native state, Goa. Prime Minister Modi and President Putin held very substantive discussions on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues. Among others, both India and Russia concluded many important agreements including the IGA on the supply of S-400 air defence systems and the IGA on Project 1135.6 frigates. The shareholders’ agreement for the establishment of a joint venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopters in India was also signed. This is the first major defence project under the ‘Make in India’ concept and amounts to a concrete step in the Indo-Russian bilateral defence cooperation.
Parrikar assured that the meeting between Putin and Modi has further reaffirmed the robust fundamentals of the “special and privileged strategic partnership” between India and Russia and stressed that the cooperation in energy, defence and regional and international issues are proof of “closeness and mutual trust” between the two nations as well as how Russia has been India’s time- tested and closest partner and it will continue to remain India’s primary defence partner.
All aspects of Indo –Russian defence cooperation were reviewed and Parrikar was glad to note that all the subgroups under the IRIGCMTC have met and submitted their reports and that the defence cooperation between the two countries continues to develop positively to the mutual benefit of both.
However, he pointed out that while the military-technical cooperation is progressing well, the traditional military-to-military cooperation needs more focus. The pace and depth of the exchanges at the level of the Services Chiefs, training of personnel in each other’s institutions, joint military exercises between all armed forces should be enhanced and added that the two militaries could mutually work out the modalities of increasing the military-to-military cooperation and draw up a roadmap for implementation.
Finally, Parrikar pointed out that one of the key security challenges faced by India is that of cross-border terrorism. Appreciating Russia’s consistent and unwavering support for India in efforts to eliminate this menace, which is a manifestation of the continued presence of terrorist groups in India’s neighbourhood, he acknowledged that Russia has also been actively engaged in efforts to eliminate terrorists in West Asia. In view of India’s uneasiness at the recent Russo-Pakistan defence cooperation/sale of Russian weapon systems to Pakistan, he conveyed: “We both recognise that the menace of terrorism cannot be defeated with ‘double standards’. There is a need for ‘zero tolerance’ and collective efforts to combat terrorism.”
All said and done, it must be recalled how solid a supporter of India-USSR was in crucial stages of India-Pakistan confrontation and how over 70% of India’s tri-service weapons and equipment requirements were met by Soviet Russia at enviable political prices. Timely delivery of Soviet Russian missile boats to Indian Navy in 1971 enabled it to render its Pakistani counterpart ineffective and cordoning off Karachi. In more recent times after USSR’s break-up, the Vajpayee-Putin initiative at military cooperation and joint ventures resulted in co-production of the BrahMos missiles in India, the latest version of which is globally unparalleled and eyed enviously.