Indian & Russian Defence Ministers Meet in Moscow

India's Defense Minister Shri Rajnath Singh is on a visit to Moscow from September 3, 2020 on the invitation of Defence Minister of the Russian Federation, General Sergei Shoigu to discuss bilateral cooperation and issues of mutual interest.

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Warm and Reassuring

The Indian Minister of Defence came to Moscow to participate in a meeting of Defence Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII on 03 September 2020,

The Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu had a one-hour meeting with Shri Rajnath Singh, the Defence Minister of India. It was Shoigu's first meeting with any of the visiting Defence Ministers. Gen.

An Indian MoD press release stated that the meeting "was marked by the traditional warmth and friendship, characteristic of the Special & Privileged Partnership between India and the Russian Federation in which Military Technical Cooperation and Military-to-Military cooperation constitutes an important pillar."

Defence Minister General Shoigu conveyed his warm appreciation to Raksha Mantri for his participation in the 75th Anniversary of Victory Day Parade at Red Square on June 24, 2020, and his participation in the joint meeting of the SCO, CIS & CSTO countries.

"The meeting covered a broad range of areas of cooperation between the two countries. There was substantial commonality in positions with respect to challenges at the regional and international levels in the areas of peace and security, reflective of the deep trust and confidence that both sides enjoy as Strategic Partners."

INDRA Navy 20

Interestingly, the meeting between Gen. Shoigu and Shri Rajnath Singh coincided with INDRA Navy 20, the 11th edition of the biennial bilateral maritime exercise series between Indian and Russian Navies that started in 2003. The INDRA Navy exercise has matured over the years with increase in scope, complexity of operations, and level of participation.

The primary aim of exercise INDRA NAVY 20 is to further consolidate interoperability built up by the two Navies over the years and also to enhance understanding and procedures for multi-faceted maritime operations.

This year, INDRA Navy 20 is being held in the Bay of Bengal from September 4 to September 5. The scope of this edition includes wide-ranging and diverse activities across the spectrum of maritime operations. Due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, INDRA NAVY-20 would be undertaken in a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ format.

The Indian Navy is participating in the exercise with the guided missile destroyer INS Ranvijay (Kashin-II class), indigenous frigate INS Sahyadri and fleet tanker INS Shakti, along with their integral helicopters. The Russian Federation Navy will be represented by destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (Udaloy-class), destroyer Admiral Tributs (Project 1155) and fleet tanker Boris Butoma of the Pacific Fleet, based at Vladivostok.

The exercise would involve surface and anti-aircraft drills, firing exercises, helicopter operations, seamanship evolutions etc. The last edition of the exercise was conducted off Visakhapatnam in December 2018.

The joint decision by India and Russia to hold INDRA Navy 20 despite the COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrates how much the two nations value their relationship.

India-Russian Joint Venture for the production of AK203 assault rifles

The meeting between the Russian and Indian defense ministers reflected the warmth in the relationship between the two nations The meeting highlighted Russia standing as a great power and a reliable friend of India.

In the context of India's desire to make weapon systems used by its Armed Forces within India, the Indian MoD press release states that "both sides welcomed the advance stage of discussions for the establishment in India of an India-Russian Joint Venture for the production of AK203 assault rifles."

India views local manufacture of AK203 by a India-Russian Joint Venture as a litmus test for the feasibility of such local manufacturing joint ventures with Russia under the Make-in-India initiative.

India is keen to negotiate an equitable technology sharing contract that "provides a very positive basis for further engagement of Russian defence industry."

The delay in finalizing the AK203 deal is likely on account of the fact that both the countries are aware that the deal will serve as a template for future contracts for local manufacture of weapon systems by Indo-Russian joint ventures.

Indian mainstream media has been appreciative of Russia's prompt response to Indian emergency weapon system procurement requests. India appreciates Russia's firm commitment to its special relationship with India in the face of likely pressure from countries currently not well disposed to India.

The Indian sentiment is widely echoed on social media and has been specifically brought out in the Indian MoD's press release which states: "Shri Rajnath Singh conveyed his appreciation for the steadfast support provided by Russia consistent with the defence and security needs of India, and in this context, particularly noted the timely manner in which the Russian had responded to requests for procurement of particular weapon systems. Both sides would continue to maintain contacts to ensure the timely delivery." According to the Indian newspaper Economic Times of India, during their meeting in Moscow, Gen. Shoigu assured Shri Rajnath Singh that Russia will accede to the Indian request for "no arms supply to Pakistan."

Indian MoD officials told the Economic Times of India that Russia has assured a substantial participation in the forthcoming Aero India Exhibition to be held in February 2021 in Bengaluru.

Vijainder K Thakur - India

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