India-Russia military bond to mirror ‘past''

NEW DELHI: Indicating a shift from public perception of having turned pro-US, New Delhi has told Moscow it will remain its “foremost” defence partner and has shared a future vision of a relationship that could very well mirror the “past”.

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27

Indicating a shift from public perception of having turned pro-US, New Delhi has told Moscow it will remain its “foremost” defence partner and has shared a future vision of a relationship that could very well mirror the “past”.

At a meeting between Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Russian counterpart General Sergey Shoigu here yesterday, New Delhi proposed a greater military-to-military contact and setting up of Indo-Russia joint ventures in producing spares for military equipment. “Military contact and not trade will be the guiding force in the Indo-Russian ties,” a source said.

New Delhi in its internal assessment has decided to “recapture the dynamism of the military-to-military interaction as it was earlier” — the days of the erstwhile Soviet Union (it disintegrated in 1991) when Indian officers, troops, sailors and pilots frequently trained with the Russians.

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However, this does not mean India would return to the Cold War-era (1945-1991) relationship when it was “seen” in the Soviet bloc despite its non-aligned status.

“We have told the visiting Russian delegation, let’s focus on increasing our relationship higher. The India-Russia relationship is massive and should not be seen through the India-US relationship. Both are separate and will grow separately,” a source told The Tribune, adding the Russian delegation did not raise the issue of the logistics supply agreement inked between India-US some two months ago.

A “non-paper” — diplomatic word for informal suggestions put in written format — was exchanged with the Russian delegation yesterday and it suggests a greater complexity of military exercises; an increased frequency in exercises and institutionalised interaction at all senior levels of the two militaries.

The existing 16-year-old annual “military-technical” agenda shall have an additional aspect to it i.e. “military-cooperation”, sources said. More than 70 per cent of the Indian military equipment is of Soviet/Russian origin, including the sea-borne aircraft carrier, nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, BrahMos missiles, Mi-17 helicopters, Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, among others.

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