Months of speculation about the possible development of an air-launched version of the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile finally came to a head, with India and Russia announcing they had signed a co-development deal, with plans for a test-fire within six months.
The deal was made public a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi to attend a one-day summit on Monday, where he held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Prior to his departure, Putin pledged to strengthen defense ties with India. In an op-ed published in The Hindu, Putin emphasized that joint development of advanced weapons, rather than the traditional purchase by India of Russian technology, would be “key to future relations.”
India is the world’s largest arms importer, with Russian technology accounting for between 60 and 70 percent of total acquisitions. New Delhi intends to spend upwards of U.S.$100 billion over the next decade to upgrade its predominantly Soviet-era military.
Putin’s visit — his first since he returned to the presidency in May — will seek to dispel rumors that Russian-Indian ties are strained following Moscow’s decision to delay Putin’s visit that was initially scheduled for the end of October. Among other things, Russia has since reaffirmed its intention to share advanced defense technology with India and to jointly develop a fifth-generation Sukhoi fighter aircraft as part of an U.S.$11 billion R&D program.
During the summit, the two sides also signed defense deals totaling U..S$2.9 billion, including a U.S.$1.6 billion contract for 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters, as well as $1.3 billion for 71 Mi-17 V5 medium-lift helicopters (adding to the 80 already purchased in a previous deal), 970 aircraft engines, and tank missiles.