It’s no secret that U.S.-India defense collaboration—especially on technology—has seen rapid acceleration in recent years. A case in point is the U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation, which had its fourth meeting from October 29 to November 3. During that meeting, which took place in India, U.S. naval officers boarded and explored the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. The tour took place on October 31.
This latest meeting of the U.S.-India joint working group has had an unintended consequence. Last week, Kommersant ran a report that the Indian Navy had allowed the visiting U.S. naval delegation to tour INS Chakra, the Akula-II-class Russian attack submarine on lease with the Indian Navy. The Kommersant report was carried by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency as well.
The charges are serious and have been swiftly debunked by Indian reports. Ajai Shukla at the Business Standard spoke to a senior Indian Navy official who noted that India does not collaborate with the United States on submarines. “We have absolutely no cooperation with America on submarines. On the other hand, we cooperate closely with Russia, and the Chakra is evidence of that. We would never endanger that valuable relationship with Russia,” the official told Shukla.
Shukla also notes that a secondary Russian report, at News.ru, suggested that the Kommersant report was planted by “French lobbyists.” The Kommersant report emerged as Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba visited French government-owned shipbuilder DCNS to examine France’s Barracuda-class attack submarines.
So far, neither the Russian nor Indian governments have addressed what appears to be a manufactured controversy on-record. India and Russia remain in talks over a potential second nuclear attack submarine lease, which is expected to arrive in 2022 to replace INS Chakra
The quick pace of convergence between New Delhi and Washington on defense industrial cooperation has long concerned Russia, which was India’s top supplier of defense equipment for the period between 2012 to 2016. Aircraft carrier cooperation is one of the primary areas of defense cooperation between the United States and India.