Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 60

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev wound up a high-profile four-day visit to India earlier this week that was aimed at boosting military ties between the two countries. During the course of his visit, Sergeev held talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Defense Minister George Fernandes, as well as with other defense officials. He also visited several Indian defense facilities and bases.

Russian sources suggested that the visit had been a successful one, and had helped expand “military and military-technical cooperation between the two countries” (Russian agencies, March 22). Sergeev himself put the visit in the context of Russia’s efforts to build a world-wide coalition of sorts to serve as a counterweight to NATO and the United States. He was quoted as saying that relations between India and Russia are rising to the “level of a real strategic partnership” in the midst of an intense struggle for the formation of a multi-polar world. Not surprisingly, Sergeev also used the visit to India both to reiterate Moscow’s opposition to what were at that time threatened NATO airstrikes on Serbia, and to criticize a U.S.-Japanese proposal for an Asian-based missile defense system. He claimed that Moscow and New Delhi saw eye to eye on the need to rein in Washington’s activities on the international stage (Russian agencies, March 22).

The most concrete agreement reached during Sergeev’s stay in India was one under which Indian officers will be trained at Russian military academies. The agreement follows an earlier decision by Washington that discontinued a U.S. training program for Indian officers because of New Delhi’s decision to conduct nuclear tests last spring (Russian agencies, March 23).

Sergeev also suggested that Moscow and New Delhi had made progress on several key arms supply deals. The Russian defense chief told journalists that Russia is ready to provide India with a consignment of the most up-to-date T-90C tanks. Russia also confirmed an agreement, he said, to deliver to India S-3000PMU air defense complexes. In addition, the two sides reportedly discussed the possible sale to India of two Russian Bars-class nuclear attack submarines (Itar-Tass, March 23). A Russian newspaper had reported earlier that negotiations over the two unfinished submarines began in November of 1998. If supplied to India, the subs would reportedly not be equipped with the same weaponry as those subs serving in the Russian navy (Kommersant, March 20).