In August 2020, India announced a large-scale seven-year ban on the import of foreign weapons and military equipment: it will include 101 weapons of various categories. According to New Delhi, this will be a “big step towards self-sufficiency in defense production.” Meanwhile, by the end of 2019, the volume of Indian-Russian military-technical cooperation exceeded $15 billion, which put India in the top three partners of Russia in this area. Shoaib Khan, a researcher at the Center for Central Malaysian Studies at the University of Mumbai, analyzed how the new ban will affect these relations.
“India will ban the import of foreign weapons in the next seven years. What weapons are on the list, and what made India take such a step?
Announcing the move, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh called it a big step towards self-sufficient defense production in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” or “Self-sufficient India.” At the same time, it is stressed that this policy of independence does not seek to be protectionist.
The list includes weapons such as artillery, assault rifles, corvettes, hydroacoustic systems, transport aircraft, ammunition, radar stations, diesel-electric submarines, communications satellites and ship-based cruise missiles. In total, weapons and military equipment from this list will be produced in India with the participation of local companies as major contractors for a total of $53.4 billion.
The ban is not the result of a sudden outbreak of pacifism. Its purpose is for the Indian army, the second largest on the planet with 1.44 million personnel, to purchase these weapons exclusively from Indian factories.
Many of the bans apply to equipment already available from Indian manufacturers, and in some cases the import ban applies to systems such as the Tejas jet fighter and Astra missiles, which are manufactured only in India. This means that some may view the bans as a political stunt reflecting domestic procurement decisions made in advance. In some cases, however, prohibitions do not appear to allow foreign competitors to participate in procurement, and some of the bans imposed later relate to domestic projects that may not have yet to complete development.
-Which countries mainly supplied weapons, the import of which will be banned in the coming years?
“This move will affect billions of dollars in purchases from major arms suppliers such as the United States, Russia and Israel in the coming years if the country reaches its target domestic production.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was the world’s second-largest arms importer between 2014 and 2019. after Saudi Arabia. During this period, India bought $16.7 billion worth of weapons, representing 9.7% of the global total. Russia accounted for 55% of Indian imports, while the United States and Israel supplied 14% and 12% of the total, respectively.
Traditionally, India has been an importer of weapons. But the government, led by Prime Minister Modi, who took office in 2014, aims to expand domestic production under the slogan “Produce in India.” The defence industry was included in the initiative to increase the production of defence equipment and weapons in India.
As part of the latest step towards self-sufficiency, imports of small arms and light machine guns from Israel, superfast 76 mm naval guns from Italy and AK-74 assault rifles from Russia will be stopped. Russian imports will be heavily affected by the artillery section, as India plans to start production of 122 mm Grad projectiles by 2022, as well as electronic artillery fuzes and two-modal charging systems by 2024.
– How will India’s decision affect the military cooperation between Russia and India in the future? Will this reduce the level of military cooperation between the two countries?
“India has long relied heavily on weapons systems imported from the Soviet Union/Russia, Western Europe and Israel, and American systems have become increasingly important over the past two decades.
Indian armoured troops mainly consist of thousands of main Battle Tanks of Russian-made T-72 and T-90, as well as modernized infantry fighting vehicles BMP-2 “Sarat”. There are also about 124 domestic main Battle Tanks Arjun, ordered 118 improved models. They will remain in service for some time, and in 2019 India paid Russia $1.2 billion for a license to build another 464 T-90S tanks in India. However, the new rules do prohibit the importation of 120-, 125- and 30 mm shells used by the main guns of tanks and combat vehicles of the Indian army, which indicates confidence in the domestic production capacity of these munitions.
Russia remains a major player in the Indian arms market. Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation has been going on for about six decades.
As for the prospects for cooperation, Moscow intends to intensify the current trend of transition from a paradigm of only seller-buyer relations to a more inclusive, industrial and technological model, which fits fully into the national industry development program adopted by the Government of India.
As part of the upcoming tender, Russia has offered India a Lada-class submarine, an export version of the Amura-1650 with an air-dependent propulsion system. It can be equipped with Bramos missile systems.
The contract to supply India with the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system is generally on schedule. Deliveries are scheduled to begin by the end of 2021.
Experts believe that it is too early to talk about the direct impact of the decisions taken in New Delhi on Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation.
Modi has struggled to turn the world’s second-largest arms importer into a manufacturing giant of the defense industry, starting with a 2014 proposal to produce $100 billion worth of equipment and systems by 2020.
Similar policy statements on import restrictions were made by India in 2013 under then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as well as the Modi administration in his first term in 2018, which did not significantly increase the production of the “Produce in India” program deployed by the military. The list of prohibitions is also vague about the position of joint ventures of Indian and foreign manufacturers and weapons systems produced under licence.
What about military cooperation with the United States? Will the decision of the Indian authorities affect him?
“India has just begun its defense cooperation with the United States. Compared to Russia, the United States was not a traditional supplier of arms to India. At the height of the Cold War, India relied heavily on the Soviet Union for military equipment, and the United States had just become a new arms supplier, along with France, Israel and some other European countries. Although, China’s recent rise and aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region, demonstrated most recently by the June 15 clashes between Chinese and Indian forces in the Galvan Valley, have contributed to the strategic rapprochement between the United States and India.
India is preparing to build capacity to counter threats to its security and territorial integrity.
From 2008 to the end of 2016. U.S.-India defense trade increased from about $1 billion to more than $15 billion. This included India’s purchase of thirteen C-130 Hercules aircraft from Lockheed Martin; ten C-17 Globemaster aircraft and twelve P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Boeing; as well as twenty-two AH-64 Apache helicopters and fifteen CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
U.S. arms exports to India from 2013 to 2017. 557% compared to the previous five-year period. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, U.S. arms sales to India currently amount to about $18 billion and could rise after the approval of a deal that would allow India to buy $1 billion worth of naval weapons and ammunition.
The deal with the United States was only the beginning compared to the Soviet-Russian deal. Yes, to some extent, along with other partner countries, the deal with the United States will also be affected after india’s decision to ban arms imports.
“Russian proposals have been sent to the Indian side to work together on the development of the 75I project submarines, which involve a full cycle of technological partnership. How do you assess the possibilities of such cooperation between the two countries?
“India needs submarines that can stay underwater for weeks and can be secretive. This is possible with the help of a new air-dependent propulsion system (AIP) technology that can generate oxygen from onboard fuel. India needs six such submarines classified as Project 75I. According to one report, L’amp;T is likely to contact the Russian design bureau Rubin. The MDL is likely to select a French naval group also in talks with Germany’s TKMS. If all goes according to plan, the first Indian submarine with an air-dependent power plant may be ready for commissioning by 2027.
Moscow has proposed with India to build six diesel-electric submarines of project 75I worth $6.6 billion, which is equal to 450 billion Indian rupees, and integrate the Bramos missile systems instead of producing submarines under license.
India has announced a $6.5 billion tender for the purchase of six 75I diesel-electric submarines armed with land-based strike and anti-ship cruise missiles. The purchase was approved by the Defence Procurement Council in January 2019, although it has been in operation since 2007. In addition, the Indian Navy should be able to manufacture six more submarines under the project.
In the case of Project 75I, the credit is said to be more than 30 per cent of the contract value. Meeting this requirement is quite a challenge. And yet Russia, whose challenger “Amur-1650” would be officially offered by the state arms supplier Rosoboronexport, is optimistic.
Russians seem to be more inclined to transfer some technology to India, even to manufacturing in India.
During the recent visit of Defense Minister Singh to Moscow and St. Petersburg, an agreement was reached to establish working groups on after-sales support for specific weapons and platforms. The Russians can set up warehouses in India with spare parts and components to provide operational supplies to the Indian military. It is expected that Russian manufacturers will cooperate with Indian firms to produce spare parts.
Given the possibilities, especially in the private sector, the 75I Navy project cannot, in the context of the construction of nuclear submarines, be required by the country to obtain permission to import anything other than a design project and some highly specialized technologies, such as mast optics, from competing submarine builders.
“India invites Russia to participate in the implementation of the Indo-Pacific concept. Is it about forming an anti-Chinese coalition?
“The Indo-Pacific Initiative is a strategic bloc seen mainly as an attempt to confront China. New Delhi believes that if Moscow joins it, it will no longer consider it as a U.S.-led bloc, which Russia has long protested against. India reportedly told Russia that just as New Delhi supports Greater Eurasia, Moscow should join the Indo-Pacific project, not just treat it as a dodgy U.S. strategy.
While Russia may be in no hurry to adopt the term, as leaders such as President Putin continue to use the term “Asia-Pacific,” its invitation to Prime Minister Modi as weF’s chief guest is a recognition of the Merger of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This gives a new vision of the Russian-Indian partnership. It could also help mitigate the strategic and political divergence that some commentators have emphasized in recent years, especially Russia’s partnership with China and India with the West.
In recent years, the concept of Indo-Pacific has become a solid geostrategic lexicon. What was originally a maritime structure focused on the economy and connectivity of the two oceans has now acquired a dimension more related to politics and security. Accordingly, there is a debate about how to conceptually define Asia, including the choice of terminology. The increasing use of the term “Indo-Pacific” has implications for countries’ approach to competition in security or maritime cooperation in Asia.
Russia has traditionally been a land power with a relatively small role in maritime policy compared to countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In recent years, however, Russia has become increasingly outspoken about its vision for the Indo-Pacific region, culminating in its blatant rejection of the term in the recently concluded Rice Dialogue.
The Russians have a different geostrategic view: they actually reject the Indo-Pacific geopolitical construct, a system that they believe supports the interests of the United States and its key allies.
Nevertheless, Moscow is stepping up efforts to develop a regional political framework and security framework that would be in line with its long-term agenda, based both on bilateral strategic partnership and on cooperation with regional structures.
The Indian vision was expressed in a different way, with senior management making it clear that it was not directed against any country, emphasizing the central role of ASEAN. Instead, India seeks to curb China’s political expansion by reaping economic benefits, and therefore refrains from making Indo-Pacific rhetoric the sole pillar of its policy towards China. Geographically, India views this region as stretching from the coast of Africa to the coast of America. Thus, Russia will see that the Indo-Pacific region, where India remains a central figure, will continue to strengthen and become multilateral. Instead of teaming up with the United States, regional players actually lead and shape the region’s security architecture.