Nirmala Sitharaman set to visit Russia today; cooperation pact on the agenda

Nirmala Sitharaman set to visit Russia today; cooperation pact on the agenda

India is likely to offer a cooperation agreement to Russia, to pave the way for creation of a long-term window period for Russian companies to manufacture the spares for the military hardware.

The military hardware is being used by all the three services.

A draft of the agreement, it is learnt, may be discussed between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Russian counterpart General Sergei Shoigu when the two will meet in Moscow.

In her maiden Russia visit as a defence minister from April 3-5, Sitharaman will also take part in the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security.

There has been a constant concern about the availability of Russian spares for Indian military for years. In order to find a solution, last year the defence ministry facilitated two rounds of discussions between the Russian and Indian defence manufacturers and users.

A year ago, India signed two agreements with Russia for long term maintenance of the Su-30 MKI combat jets in order to improve the fighter aircraft's serviceability. Maintenance of several platforms like T-90 tanks, Mi-17 helicopters, INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier and MiG-29K naval fighter jets were discussed between the two sides. The agreement was conceived as an answer to the perpetual challenge the military faced.

"Sitharaman's visit is in keeping with the tradition of high level exchanges between India and Russia and will provide an opportunity to reinforce the traditional warm and friendly relations that exists between the two countries with particular reference to Military Technical Cooperation," Indian Embassy in Moscow said in a press statement last week.

According to the latest report from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia continues to dominate the Indian arms market, supplying 62% of the hardware that India imports. USA is second on the list with 15% share while Israel is at the third spot with 11%.

Other defence related issues that may come up during the delegation level talks are price negotiation of S-400 air defence systems, leasing out a second nuclear powered submarine, purchase of four more Russian frigates for the navy and increasing the indigenous content in Kamov-226T helicopters that HAL will produce in collaboration with the Russian manufacturer.

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