Indian Government Breaks from Standard Policy to Accept COVID-19 Aid from Russian Arms Exporter

On April 15, Russian arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, donated $2 million to India’s newly created PM CARES Fund, which has been set up to assist New Delhi’s domestic response to the coronavirus pandemic.  The deal is particularly notable given that it marks the first time the Indian government has accepted financial contributions from a foreign government-owned company.  Thus far, the India government has only allowed contributions from international foundations, non-resident Indians, and persons of Indian origin.

In past domestic crises (such as the August 2018 flood in the southern state of Kerala), the Indian government has refused offers of aid from foreign governments, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.  New Delhi is refraining from disclosing whether this acceptance of aid from Rosoboronexport signals a change in its aid acceptance policy.

 Notably, Rosoboronexport is India’s largest source of arms imports, and is in the process of facilitating the controversial transfer of Russia’s S‑400 missile defense system under a $2.5 billion contract with the Indian government.  India also remains one of Russia’s largest arms export markets. Although Rosoboronexport is under U.S. sanctions, this has not thus far stopped India’s continued partnership with the arms exporter.