Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India on Thursday, to tie up billions of dollars in an arms deal with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, irking the US, China, and Pakistan all in one go.
The Kremlin said about the two-day visit that the signing of a $5-billion deal for the advanced S-400 air defense system would be the “key feature”, despite US sanctions against countries acquiring Russian defense hardware.
India will be asking the United States for a special waiver for the deal as already discussed by their defense and foreign ministers in New Delhi earlier. However, Washington has been exhibiting not so subtle signs of reluctance to do so.
The US is in a precarious position as it seeks to retain China through better ties with India, which like Washington has been feeling uneasy by Beijing’s growing assertiveness.
Washington and New Delhi announced plans to agree on an exchange of sensitive military information. However, Russia still remains India’s main arms supplier. Additional contracts of new deals with the Asian giant would be a major win for Moscow not to mention a big snub to the US.
Putin and Modi, are also going to be discussing a deal for four Krivak-class frigates worth $2 billion and 200 light utility Ka-226 helicopters standing at $1 billion.
“Russia is a time-tested friend. I am really glad some spine has finally been shown by India,” R.R. Subramanian, a strategic affairs analyst, told AFP. “It’s about time we showed that we are not going to be pushed around by Washington.”
According to experts, India needs the S-400 system to fill critical gaps in its defense capabilities, in view of China’s rapid growth and potential threats from Pakistan.
Birender Singh Dhanoa, Indian Air Force Chief stated on Wednesday that the S-400 and the 36 Rafale fighter jets purchased from France, a 2016 deal marred in political controversy, represents a “booster dose” for India.
On the strategic front, Russia assisted India to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this year and has backed New Delhi’s demand for a permanent UN Security Council seat. Russia is also backing India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries controlling access to the atomic technology despite Nuclear-armed India not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).