Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 60

Despite the positive Russian reports of the Sergeev visit, it was unclear whether the two sides had in fact managed to resolve a number of problems that have arisen with regard to Russian arms deliveries to India. Indeed, on the eve of Sergeev’s arrival in New Delhi, the Russian newspaper Kommersant-daily had suggested that Sergeev faced some tough negotiations on several issues. One of those involves a possible deal by which Moscow would sell to India the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. Negotiations over the Kiev-class carrier have gone on for more than five years without any real progress, and India is now reportedly balking at paying out some US$700 million to modernize the vessel.

But the most serious divisions between Moscow and New Delhi have reportedly arisen with regard to a US$2 billion Indian-Russian aircraft deal. According to Kommersant-daily, the Indian side is upset over the slow pace at which Russia is delivering forty Su-30 jet fighters purchased by New Delhi. Only eight of the aircraft have been delivered so far, and the next batch will likely reach India some two years later than planned. The problems with the Su-30s have reportedly prompted India to seek a deal with France for a license to produce Mirage-2000 fighters rather than to pursue a similar deal with Russia to produce Su-30s, the newspaper said (Kommersant daily, March 19).

Dealings with India are very important to Russia both politically and economically. Moscow sees “partnership” relations with India as one of the linchpins of its diplomatic strategy in Asia and throughout the world. India is, at the same time, the major purchaser of Russian military hardware. Last December Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov traveled to New Delhi in order to finalize a deal by which a major program of military-technical cooperation between the two countries was extended an additional ten years–to 2010. According to “Kommersant daily,” as a result of the cooperation program the total value of Russian-Indian arms dealings could reach US$10-15 billion.