India, Russia sign protocol to step-up defence engagement

RSTV Bureau

In a major move, India and Russia agreed on a roadmap for ramping up bilateral defence cooperation and decided to conclude negotiations for different military platforms soon.

Both the sides signed a protocol for the roadmap to step- up defence engagement during the annual meeting of the Indian- Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC).

The meeting was co-chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and his Russian counterpart General Sergey Shoigu.

Union Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence Arun Jaitley and Russian Defence Minister General Sergey Shoigu during the 17th IRIGC-MTC meeting in Moscow on Friday

Union Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence Arun Jaitley and Russian Defence Minister General Sergey Shoigu during the 17th IRIGC-MTC meeting in Moscow on Friday

The roadmap includes specific activities to be concluded by both the sides, and aims to enhance cooperation in the field of political and military dialogue, besides exercises between the armed forces of the two countries.

In the meeting, Jaitley conveyed to the Russian side about the importance of having a robust and reliable after- sales support mechanism with regards to serviceability of Russian-origin equipment, Indian government officials said.

Russia has been one of India’s key major suppliers of arms and ammunition. However, it has been a long-standing grievance of armed forces that supply of critical spares and equipment from Russia takes a long time affecting maintenance of military systems procured from that country.

Jaitley also talked about the new opportunities for participation of Russian companies in the Indian defence manufacturing sector as part of the ‘Make in India’ programme under the new strategic partnership policy for defence production.

The Indian government last month unveiled a “strategic partnership” model under which select private firms will be engaged along with foreign entities to build military platforms like fighter jets, submarines and battle tanks.

Both the sides also agreed to conclude various ongoing negotiations for different platforms as well as restructure the inter-governmental commission to enhance military to military cooperation, the officials said.

During the meeting, both the sides expressed satisfaction at the “concrete progress” that has been made on areas of cooperation since the last meeting of the commission in October 2016.

“The discussions were productive and held in an atmosphere of warmth and friendship,” the officials said.

“India’s military technical cooperation with Russia is one of the key pillars of our relationship,” they said.

“We are determined to go ahead with building up cooperation in order to enhance the combat readiness of both countries’ armed forces and to exchange experience in various defence-related matters,” Gen. Shoigu said at the meeting.

It was the 17th meeting of the IRIGC-MTC.

The meeting took place nearly three weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to “upgrade and intensify” defence ties through joint manufacture and co-production of key military hardware, during their annual summit talks at St Petersburg.

Addressing a leading forum for technological development  showcasing India’s “path-breaking” initiatives for defence production, Jaitley, who is in Russia on a three-day visit, on Wednesday invited Russian firms to set up joint ventures with Indian firms and manufacture advanced military platforms through technology transfer.