Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 164

Russia’s Foreign Ministry yesterday denied reports that agreements reached during the recent Russian-U.S. summit in Moscow in any way obligate Russia to cut back its arms sales to India. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told reporters yesterday that “bilateral cooperation in defense and in the military-technology sphere is Russia’s and India’s sovereign right and nobody intends to curtail it.” According to Rakhmanin, neither in the joint statement issued by the Russian and U.S. presidents on “shared security challenges on the eve of the 21st century,” nor in any of the discussions that occurred during the recent summit, was it said that Moscow must freeze its military-technical cooperation with India. (Russian agencies, September 8)

As if to punctuate Rakhmanin’s remarks, an official of the Russian state arms trading company Rosvooruzhenie said in England yesterday that Russia had completed an upgrade of its MiG-29 jet fighter for India. New Delhi is reportedly planning to spend some US$370 million to modernize its air force with the MiG-29 aircraft. (Itar-Tass, September 8)

India represents, along with China, one of Russia’s two major arms markets; estimates suggest that Moscow has in recent years sold close to US$1 billion in weaponry annually to New Delhi. (Russky telegraf, May 13) Despite entreaties from Washington, Moscow made clear earlier this year that it would not let India’s decision to conduct a series of nuclear tests stand in the way of continued military-technical cooperation between the two countries. Moscow refused also to curtail its cooperation with India in the field of nuclear power generation. Indeed, in late June India and Russia initialed an agreement that calls for Russia to construct a nuclear power plant in southern India. That action provoked criticism from the United States, which charged that the deal undermines international efforts intended to punish New Delhi for its nuclear testing. Russia brushed aside the criticism. (See the Monitor, June 23-24)