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Will Russia-Ukraine war impact India’s defence imports? Delivery of orders worth $9 billion still pending

Source : India Today

Will Russia-Ukraine war impact India’s defence imports? Delivery of orders worth $9 billion still pending
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The Russia-Ukraine conflict has emerged as one of the greatest challenges facing the world. It has forced many countries to either impose sanctions on or limit bilateral ties with Russia, which goes on to prove that the Russian invasion of Ukraine could have long-term repercussions.

India, too, is keeping a close watch on its defence requirements sourced from Russia. While both Indian and Russian officials have stated that the crisis will not impact or delay deliveries of defence equipment, concerns persist about sanctions on Russia and the possibility of a prolonged war in Ukraine.

In fact, reviews are being conducted by the defence establishment to ascertain the status of current deals and payments.

It is also important to note that, apart from Russia, India is expecting deliveries of imported arms from a number of other suppliers in the coming years.

Drop in Russian arms imports

Over the last decade, India’s arms imports have dropped by over 30 per cent. This decrease was attributed to a number of reasons, including reduced dependence on Russia. But Moscow still supplies a large chunk of spares and other military platforms to India.

The drop in Indian arms imports seems to have been mainly due to its complex procurement processes, combined with an attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian arms, reads a report from last year by SIPRI on international arms transfers.




Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international think-tank that studies conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

“The overall decrease in Russia’s arms exports from 2011-15 and 2016-20 was almost entirely attributable to a 53 per cent drop in its arms exports to India,” read the report. As a result, Russia’s share of total Indian arms imports fell from 70 to 49 per cent.

However, India was still seen as the largest buyer of Russian defence equipment between 2016 and 2020 despite the decreased dependence on imports from Russia.

China-Pakistan threat

The SIPRI report went on to add, “Although several large Russian arms deals with India, including for combat aircraft, were completed by 2020, India placed new orders for a variety of Russian arms in 201920. The ensuing deliveries will probably lead to an increase in Russian arms exports in the coming five years.”

India has been looking at large scale arms deals in the wake of the threat perception that has developed over the last two years involving China and Pakistan. While there is a constant thrust on ‘Make in India’, big-ticket military imports are imminent.

“Based on its outstanding deliveries of combat aircraft, air defence systems, ships and submarines, India’s arms imports are expected to increase over the coming five years,” SIPRI said in its report.

In order to be able to balance this equation, India is pursuing a policy of targeting defence exports worth Rs 35,000 crore by 2025. This can be done by doubling procurement from domestic manufacturers, thereby decreasing the dependence of the Indian armed forces on foreign weapons and military platforms.

Reports also point out that while India’s defence imports from Russia fell considerably over the last decade, the import of American arms also fell by 46 per cent in the same period.

S-400 import deal with Russia

India and Russia signed the military tech cooperation agreement 2021-2031 during the maiden 2+2 dialogue in December 2021. This agreement was aimed at bolstering defence ties over the next decade and comprises orders for military platforms worth over $9 billion.

One of the most significant military deals India made with Russia is that of the S-400 air defence system. India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia in October 2018 to buy five units of the S-400 surface to air missile system. Out of the five units, one has already been delivered to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

File photo of Russian S-400 missile air defence systems | Reuters



The S-400 is a mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system that is considered one of the most lethal in the world. It can take down multiple targets, including fighter jets, bombers, cruise and ballistic missiles or even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), up to a range of 400 km.

With its long-range surveillance radars, the S-400 can detect all sorts of aerial threats and provide an air defence shield over large cities.

BrahMos export order to Philippines

A joint venture between India’s DRDO and Russia, BrahMos Aerospace inked a $375 million deal with the Philippines to supply BrahMos cruise missiles to the Filipino navy. These will then be used as anti-ship shore-based missiles with a range of 290 km.

BrahMos Aerospace has been continuously upgrading the BrahMos missile system, making it more lethal against sea and land targets. It can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land platforms.

This missile weapon system is already being used in different variants by the Army, Air Force and Navy.

AK-203 assault rifle

As part of a joint venture between India and Russia, over 6 lakh AK-203 rifles were to be produced in a factory in Korwa in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi to fulfill the Indian army’s demand for assault rifles.

This ‘Make in India’ project faced multiple delays but all hurdles have now been cleared.

The Rs 5,000 crore contract involves the procurement of 6,01,427 AK-203 assault rifles through Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited. These rifles are to be manufactured in India. In addition, the contract also involves off the shelf procurement of another 70,000 AK-203 assault rifles from Russia.

Nuclear powered submarine

In 2019, India signed a $3 billion deal with Russia to lease a nuclear-powered submarine.

The Chakra III, Akula class submarine, is expected to be delivered by 2025 for a period of 10 years. This will be the third nuclear submarine India would lease from Russia.

File photo of a Russian Navy Akula submarine



The first was leased in 1988 for three years and the second in 2012 for 10 years. The lease for the second submarine is due to end this year.

Four Grigorovich class frigates

The Admiral Grigorovich Class Frigate (Facebook)



In 2018, Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport inked a $1 billion deal with Goa Shipyard Ltd for the production of two frigates for the Indian Navy.

Delivery of the two frigates was supposed to begin within four years of the contract, which means by the end of 2022.

Fighter jets

At the peak of its military tussle with China in Ladakh in July 2020, India approved the purchase of 12 Su-30 MKIs and 21 MiG 29 fighter aircraft from Russia. This Rs 18,148 crore deal also involved an upgrade of IAF’s existing fleet of 59 Russian MiG 29s.

File photo of a MiG-29 fighter jet



US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu had claimed that India has cancelled the order of Russian-made MiG 29 aircraft. However, Indian officials did not react to such claims.

A spokesperson for the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation – Valeria Reshetnikova, said in July 2021 that Russia had sent a commercial offer and a tender request for the aircraft.

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