On November 09, 2017, Russian newspaper, Kommersant, reported through several state sources, that the Kremlin was becoming increasingly displeased with India’s military establishment following several “unfriendly acts” by the latter toward Russian military interests. Moscow particularly took offense after New Delhi reportedly granted access to technical specialists from the United States Navy to a Russian submarine (Project 971i, renamed as INS Chakra). The vessel has been operated by the Indian Navy since 2012 on a 10-year lease for approximately $962 million. More broadly, the Kremlin appears dismayed by India’s growing military partnership with the United States.
It has been speculated that this could jeopardize pending military-technical cooperation between Russia and India. Since October 2016, New Delhi has been vying to lease a second nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) from Russia under a 10-year contract. Russian media outlets, including Kommersant and TASS, have harped on this issue that other deals could be put at risk. Russia has a long track record as a military supplier to India. Other deals from just this year include:
- August 2017, cooperation agreement between Rosoboronexport and Indian firms Elcom Group and Ashok Leyland Defense System to create a tracked vehicle upgrade program for the Indian Armed Forces.
- June 2017, stealth ship manufacturing agreement between United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) and India’s Goa Shipyard Limited (both entities agreed to build two guided-missile stealth frigates for the Indian Navy). The project will likely be funded with a sovereign guarantee from Moscow to circumvent U.S. sanctions on OSK.
- March 2017, aircraft servicing agreement between the United Aircraft Corporation (OAK) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to provide long-term maintenance and technical assistance for Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters operated by the Indian Air Force.
- February 2017, joint venture cooperation under Brehmos Aeorospace between Russia’s Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization to manufacture the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile.
Russia could potentially leverage these and other preceding defense deals in an effort to influence New Delhi going forward with regard to its military relations with the United States.