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Proposed defence pact with Ukraine irks Moscow
Russia’s concern
n Ukraine among world’s top 10 arms exporters
n It specialises in producing tanks, planes, anti-aircraft and radar systems n Moscow sees a competitor in Ukraine that can cut into its market in India
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 6
The country’s oldest defence partner, Russia, is ‘seeing red’ over moves by India and Ukraine to forge a defence agreement. A formal draft of the pact has been exchanged with Ukraine, part of the erstwhile Soviet Union. “The matter is ‘red hot’ at the moment, a top defence ministry official confirmed while requesting anonymity.

In response Moscow has raised objections to India’s keenness to have a formal defence tieup with Ukraine, which is seeking a “deeper military relationship” with the South Asian nation. It probably sees a competitor in Ukraine that can potentially cut into its almost assured defence market in India, said a source.

Also the strategic partnership between Russia and Ukraine has not been very fruitful with the latter beginning to tilt towards NATO countries, much to Russia’s chagrin.

At present, Ukraine is among the world’s top ten arms exporters. After the breakup of the Soviet Union it inherited a defence industry producing tanks, planes, anti-aircraft and radar systems as well as technological backup. It also retained the capacities to build seaborne aircraft carriers as the manufacturing facilities were based in Kiev.

Also, the AN-12 and AN-32 series of transport planes used by the Indian Air Force are still serviced by Ukraine. The country also has the capacity to build the Mi series of helicopters as well as T-80 and T-90 tanks, both of which it has supplied to Pakistan during the past decade. At one stage, Ukraine, possibly under Indian pressure, even stopped supplying the equipment to Pakistan.

For Ukraine its growing might as an arms and equipment manufacturer is somehow linked to Russia. If it is successful in its aim of joining NATO, Moscow is likely to withhold the components Ukraine still needs to assemble its weapons. This a legacy from Soviet times, with the production process for weapons systems split between factories in both countries.

Manufacturing a missile, for example, would require sourcing components from Russia.

Last year in June Moscow said it would severe all defence industry ties with Ukraine should the latter join NATO. Russia is paranoid over NATO extending its reach in countries geographically closer to it like Georgia, Turkey or any of the erstwhile Soviet ‘republics’ like Ukraine.

The Russians have been warning India about the “pitfalls” of entering such a defence agreement with Ukraine. The sources said India has tried to assuage Moscow’s sentiments but there is little scope of a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, there has been no movement on the proposed defence pacts by India with Spain and Sweden. In Europe India already has such agreements with Britain, France, Italy and Germany.

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