Vladimir Putin will be India for the India-Russia summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File)
Days before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India next week, during which the possible signing of high-profile defence deals worth more than $ 8 billion is on the agenda, the country’s foreign minister denied any knowledge of the ongoing controversy over the Rafale deal in India.
Mr Putin will be India for a two-day visit on October 4 and 5 for the annual India-Russia summit with a focus on boosting bilateral ties between the two countries.
But even as Russia could be gearing up to sign massive weapons deals India, Russia’s Foreign Minister denied any knowledge of the Rafale deal controversy in India.
Answering NDTV’s question on whether Russia would be more thorough in following rules for their defence deal with India after the Rafale row, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “We participated in the bid for that delivery (India’s proposal to buy warplanes) and we didn’t get it. I haven’t heard about this since”.
India began the process to buy a fleet of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) in 2007 after the Defence Ministry, headed then by Congress leader AK Antony, cleared the proposal from the Indian Air Force. The contenders for the mega deal were Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s MiG-35, Sweden’s Gripen, Boeing’s F/A-18s and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale.
As for reports that the inter-governmental agreements for the defence deals signed in 2015 may not be signed as early as next week when Vladimir Putin will be in India, the foreign minister suggested that it was up to India to decide. “As for the other deals which are being negotiated, I haven’t heard anything about the timing, postponement, about putting anything on hold, and I understand that India will take sovereign decision on how to proceed and what kind of weapons India needs,” said Mr Lavrov.
In October 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a deal worth Rs. 39,000 crore with the Russian president to purchase Moscow’s most advanced air defence system, the S-400. The system can track some 300 targets and shoot down around three dozen targets simultaneously over a range of 400 kilometres. The sensitive radars of the system are thought to be able to detect even stealth aircraft which present a very small radar cross-section and are often impossible for other systems to track.
The 19th India-Russia summit summit is also expected to see India following up acquiring five S-400 ‘Triumph’ missile systems, four Project 11356 frigates, 48 Mi-17V-5 helicopters and 200 Ka-226T helicopters from Russia.
The last annual India-Russia summit was held in June 2017 during PM Modi’s visit to Russia.
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