Why Russia - India strategic alliance not possible despite India being biggest client of military weapons

Why Russia - India strategic alliance not possible despite India being biggest client of military weapons

MOSCOW - The largest-ever Indian Army contingent reached Russia for its first-ever tri-service exercise. India has termed exercise INDRA 2017 as a landmark event of India-Russia defense cooperation. But political analysts Andrei Frolov and Alexander Khramchikhin suggest that bilateral military cooperation goes a long way back for India and Russia, Sputnik has reported.

The India-Russia military exercises are being held from October 19-29, 2017.

The Indian contingent comprises 350 personnel of the Indian Army, 80 Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel and 480 Indian Navy personnel. Two IL-76 aircraft, one Talwar class frigate and the anti-submarine warfare capable INS Kadmat corvette are a part of the contingent. 

The Special Forces and the Navy's elite MARCOS commandos are also a part of the team.

The Russian Federation Armed Forces is represented by approximately 1,000 troops of the 5th Army, as well as marines and ships of the Pacific Fleet and aircraft from the Eastern Military District.

Although these exercises are the largest ever, military cooperation between  Russia and India goes a long way back.

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The language barrier has never been an obstacle for the participants of the drills. Many Indian officers were trained in Russian military universities and can speak Russian well. They perfectly know Russia military vehicles because they have been using them for more than half a century.

Hence, military-technical cooperation between  Russia and India has a long history and originates back to the 60s. The USSR built warships for the friendly state, supplied aircraft and small arms, and helped with ammunition.

According to Andrei Frolov, the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Export of Arms,” today India is interested in Russian arms more than ever.

“The contract for heavy Su-30MKI fighters has reached the fourth stage – they are almost completely assembled in  India, we supply only individual components. To date, the Indian Air Force has more than 200 aircraft of this type,” Frolov said.

He further said that in 2015, a contract was signed for the supply of 200 multipurpose Ka-226 helicopters. The supply of Mi-17 military transport aircraft also continues and India already has over 200 of these aircraft.

The Indian Navy also has Russian-made Ka-28 anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and last year, during a visit to  India by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a memorandum was signed on the delivery of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

The expert recalled that quite a lot of agreements have been reached regarding the ground forces’ tech also. The main component of the Indian Army is 1,000 units of T-90S tanks.

“Last year, the Indian military approved the purchase of 464 T-90MS tanks for $2 billion. Russia is also modernizing the military equipment of  India, as, for example, MiG-29 fighters. They will be replaced soon by the newest MiG-35. The Indian delegation was keenly interested in this aircraft at the MAKS 2017 aerospace show,” Frolov said.

Despite military prosperity, Russia and India do have a number of disagreements that make it difficult to cooperate. The Indian side has increasingly demanded that Russia not only sell weapons to it, but also share technical documentation and industrial secrets. 

In addition, the geopolitical factor has a significant influence on the relationship.

However, the deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, Alexander Khramchikhin, believes that there are no irresolvable contradictions between the two countries. 

“I would even call us ideal allies in a number of areas, for example, in the fight against Islamic terrorism,” Khramchikin said.

But according to the analyst there is one problem that seriously hampers cooperation and that is the fact that “Russia, so to speak, pushes India into an alliance with China, although it, on the contrary, needs an alliance against China. These states have enough disagreements: border disputes, the friendship between the PRC and Pakistan and many other factors,” he said.