'It's a Signal to Washington', Say Experts as India Expands Military Ties With Russia
09:08 GMT 07.12.2021 (Updated: 19:03 GMT 03.11.2022)
India signed several agreements with Russia on Monday after a one-on-one meeting between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. The two countries also held the inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue to discuss issues that have made waves internationally.
New Delhi put a premium on the need to have closer military-technical cooperation with Moscow during ministerial level dialogues on Monday.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressed hope that the two countries will continue their partnership in these trying times.
"The pandemic, the extraordinary expansion of armaments in the neighbourhood, and the unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown [up] several challenges", Singh said, alluding to the ongoing border standoff with China as he met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Monday morning.
The two countries signed a military-technical cooperation deal for the next decade, an agreement for the joint production of 601,427 AK-203 assault rifles
at an Indian facility, during the 20th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC).
The 10-year pact on military cooperation is the renewal of an existing framework.
6 December 2021, 09:37 GMT
Speaking at the meeting, Russian Defence Minister Shoigu said he was confident that "agencies in both countries would contribute to increase regional peace and cooperation".
Experts reckoned that the agreements and protocols signed during the meeting indicate that India's defence ties with Russia will not come under any pressure, including the threat of sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
(CAATSA). The latter is a US law passed in 2017 to prevent countries from buying weapons from Russia, North Korea, and Iran.
"This is a major signal to Washington that despite the CAATSA sword in the background, India is not likely to reel back defence imports of Russian equipment in the near to mid-term", Rahul Bhonsle, a former Indian Army brigadier and security analyst, told Sputnik.
India's annual defence contracts with Russia have risen to $9-10 billion compared with $2-3 billion in 2017, the year the Trump administration passed CAATSA.
Professor Harsh V. Pant, the director of the Strategic Studies Programme at the New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation, pointed out that Monday's agreements are largely an attempt to set the course for the next decade to see what the priority areas are, where the two countries can collaborate and move from buyer-seller to co-production and co-development, something that India has been prioritising in defence engagements.
"India and Russia already have very extensive defence engagement. They are hopeful that this trajectory continues because for Russia, it is important that India remains one of the most important defence buyers. For India, it is important that Russia remains engaged with India and does not really abandon its relationship with India in favour of China", Pant said.
Both experts agree that military-technical cooperation over the next decade will not fundamentally change the trajectory of the India-Russia defence relationship.
2+2 Dialogue Between Foreign and Defence Ministers
India has a 2+2 format dialogue mechanism on strategic and defence-related issues with four of its key strategic partners — Russia, Australia, the US, and Japan.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar reiterated at the inaugural ministerial dialogue that in an ever-changing world India-Russia ties remain close and stable.
Talking about Afghanistan, Jaishankar said: "The situation in Afghanistan
has wider repercussions including for Central Asia. Maritime security and safety is another area of shared concern. We both have a common interest in ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-driven platforms".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Delhi and Moscow had identical positions on the world's most important political and military issues. However, the minister conveyed Russia's "serious concerns" about activities taking place in the Asia-Pacific Region.
"We expressed our concern about the activities taking place in this region under the slogan of Indo-Pacific strategies where we see non-inclusive blocs", Lavrov told the media after the first India-Russia 2+2 talks involving both defence and foreign ministers.
"The 2+2 talks will dilute the existing hurdles and hedges between Russia and India that evolved under the new geopolitical clout, i.e., India's alignment with the Quad and Moscow's closer ties with Beijing. In addition, this dialogue reiterates that our defence ties are more than the speculative assumptions that have evolved over the years", Dr Sandeep Tripathi, founder and president of the Forum for Global Studies, told Sputnik.
Lavrov said Afghanistan was mentioned in the Asia-Pacific context, and the two countries agreed that the Taliban* must deliver on its commitments to ensure an inclusive government structure, protect human rights, and prevent the terrorist threat from spilling over.
*The Taliban is an organisation under UN sanctions for terrorist activities.