The relationship between India and Russia has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War, but there’s one area in which ties have remained virtually unbroken – defence cooperation.
India, with a defence budget for the current year of Rs. 1.5 trillion ($32.5 billion), imports more than 70 percent of its arms, the vast majority of which come from Russia. It’s against this backdrop that Indian Navy Chief Adm. Nirmal Verma recently concluded a visit to Russia following an invitation from Adm. Vladimir Sergeivich Vysotskiy, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy.
Verma’s visit was only the latest in a series of high-level meetings between top defence personnel and leaders from both countries, and followed a visit by Vysotskiy to India in January.
During his trip, Verma took in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Kaliningrad and Severodvinsk, and engaged with numerous senior Russian officials including Deputy Defence Minister A. Antonov. Verma also visited design bureaus and shipyards engaged in constructing ships for the Indian Navy.
According to the Indian Navy, Verma ‘reviewed the progress of the Talwar Class follow-on warships, under construction at the Yantar shipyard, and was reassured that the first warship “Teg” would commence trials shortly and be delivered in six to eight months.’The new frigates in this class, namely ‘Teg,’ ‘Teer’ and ‘Trikand’ are follow-ons of the three Talwar Class warships built for India by Russia and brought into service in the early part of the last decade. With the new ships, the Russian-origin Klub missiles would be replaced by the indigenous BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile system.
During his visit to the Sevmash Shipyard, where the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov is being retrofitted, Verma noted that ‘significant progress had been made on the Gorshkov project and the ship was shaping up well for the preliminary sea trials.’ A press release by the Indian Navy also noted that Verma ‘made a first-hand assessment of all projects,’ adding that ‘they were progressing satisfactorily and had reached critical stages of maturity.’ He also expressed satisfaction with the quality of construction and repairs, and told Russian media that the Russian Mig 29KUB fighter jet designed for the Gorshkov was sound, claiming that the recent accident involving the aircraft wouldn’t affect India’s arms orders with Russia.
But discussions went beyond just talk of hardware, reflecting the strategic importance that the two sides place on relations. For example, the two sides also discussed increasing cooperation in anti-piracy operations, and they agreed that the INDRA series of exercises still form an important aspect of the bilateral relationship and so should be continued and expanded.