India maintains interest in defence cooperation with Russia amid reports of potential distancing, says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko has dismissed a report claiming New Delhi wants to distance itself from Moscow in the area of defence cooperation, a key domain of collaboration between the two nations with a history spanning several decades.
His response came following a Reuters report that said India is seeking to distance itself from its largest arms supplier after Russia’s ability to supply munitions and spares was hampered by the Ukraine war. Citing Indian sources, the report said New Delhi must step carefully to avoid pushing Moscow closer to China.
“We have no such information. This is all on Reuters’ conscience. Our Indian partners, as before, are interested in cooperation, including in this area,” the Russian diplomat was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency. Russia supplied more than 60 percent of India’s weapons purchases of more than $60 billion during the last two decades. From Russian-origin tanks to an aircraft carrier and surface-to-air missile systems, they make up a significant portion of India’s military hardware. The two countries jointly make the BrahMos cruise missile and plan to produce AK-203 rifles in India.
‘India-Russia Ties Remain Strong’
Last month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Moscow and held comprehensive talks on key areas of bilateral cooperation including trade and energy, and defence. “India-Russia relations have remained strong and steady building upon strategic convergences, geopolitical interests, and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he discussed with Jaishankar prospects for military and technical cooperation, including joint production of weapons, adding that Russia was also ready to support India’s goal of increasing domestic production.
However, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Ukraine war accelerated India’s impetus to diversify its weapons base. The world’s biggest arms importer is slowly turning West as Washington looks to strengthen ties in the Indo-Pacific region, hoping to contain a more assertive China by weaning New Delhi off a traditional dependence on Moscow, the Reuters report said. It also added that “India must walk a fine line in ties with Russia, as the largest buyer of its arms and, since 2022, one of the largest purchasers of its oil. Halting such trade would push Moscow closer to Beijing.”
This comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned his focus to domestic production in line with the “Make in India” programme to encourage domestic manufacturing. Last year, India and the United States signed a deal for General Electric, to produce engines in India to power its fighter jets, the first such US concession to a non-ally. The two sides also plan to “fast-track” technology cooperation and co-production in areas ranging from air combat to intelligence.
(With agency inputs)