By Theodore Shoebat
India the number one buyer of Russian military technology, as we read in a report from RT:
India has remained a major buyer of Soviet and Russian equipment since the 1960s. It’s been estimated that about 60-70 percent of India’s current military inventory is of Soviet and Russian origin. That trend has continued as India once again emerged as Russia’s biggest customer in 2019, with arms purchases of $14.5 billion, despite the threat of US sanctions. India’s purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system alone accounted for nearly $5 billion.
Fortunately for Moscow, the Indian armed forces, which are known for their professionalism, have a long record of efficiently operating and maintaining their Russian-made equipment. Over the years, India has built sophisticated facilities for the training and repair of Russian systems and leveraged its expertise to advance its own defense cooperation with Southeast Asian states.
The Indian Navy, for instance, provided extensive training to 500 personnel from Vietnam’s Navy in operating the Kilo-class submarines before Hanoi went ahead and purchased six of the diesel-electric subs from Moscow. Earlier, in 2007, India supplied 5,000 spare parts for the maintenance of Russian-origin Petya class warships and OSA-II-class missile boats – phased out by India’s navy — for use by the Vietnamese.
Similarly, Indian air force pilots have also trained Malaysian air force pilots on the Russian Su-30 fighter aircraft, operated by both nations. The two countries have even set up an ‘Su-30 forum’ – a joint platform to exchange information on training, maintenance and technical support of the aircraft.
Russia and India have developed a fighter jet, the Sukhoi Su-30, that can fire a supersonic nuclear missile at 3,000 kilometers per hour, making it the new weapons technology that strengthens India’s third nuclear triad (which is strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles). As Russia and India Report stated:
“Individually, the Su-30 and Brahmos are powerful weapons … But when the world’s most capable fourth generation fighter is armed with a uniquely destructive cruise missile, together they are a dramatic force multiplier.”
The same report reads:
“The BrahMos’ 3000 km per second speed – literally faster than a bullet – means it hits the target with a huge amount of kinetic energy. In tests, the Brahmos has often cut warships in half and reduced ground targets to smithereens.”
A report from Ria Novosti describes the weapon as such:
The integration of the navigation systems from Kh-555 will turn Brahmos, a supersonic cruise missile, into a “super-rocket” with almost a sub-strategic capability above its normal tactical range, capable of hitting targets over 180-300 miles (300-500 km), from sea, land and air launchers, and capable of being armed with a nuclear warhead, the source said.
The Su-30 jet fighter fires a supersonic cruise missile called the Brahmos which is capable of holding a nuclear warhead, and they will serve as part of India’s military backbone. The Su-30 fighter jet has a range of up to 1,800 kilometers, while the Brahmos can fire targets up to 500 kilometers away. This weaponry is being flexed to scare both Pakistan and China, India’s biggest enemies since both have border disputes with India. As a report from Yahoo! News reads: “the newly modified Su-30s will allow India’s nuclear aircraft to strike deep in the heart of China or Pakistan, Delhi’s two main adversaries.”
The Su-30 goes back to the 1990s, but it was planned to be modified to carry the Brahmos missile goes back to 2010 when India’s Strategic Forces Command proposed for two squadrons of Su-30s to be placed under its command. In 2012, India’s government approved the project to modify 42 Su-30s to be modified to cary 216 Brahmos missiles.
The Brahmos is jointly developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. One can see the overlap between nationalist agendas and corporate interests. For example, when one looks at the official website for the DRDO, one will find the face of India’s Defense Minister, Rajnath Singh, who is in fact the former President of Bharatiya Janata Party, the nationalist party of India and the current dominating party of the country. It is not coincidental that this is the same Rajnath Singh who on August of 2019 declared that the “no first use of nuclear weapons” doctrine (which means that India would not be the first to use nuclear weapons preemptively) was not absolute. Singh told media outlets that while India had “strictly adhered to” the doctrine thus far “what happens in future depends on the circumstances”.
Both China and India are the only countries that currently (and supposedly) subscribe to this doctrine. In 1964, China declared that it would “never at any time and under any circumstances be the first to use nuclear weapons”. India did not believe China and so in 1998 began testing nuclear weapons (and not for the first time, since India did prior nuclear testing in 1974). What is interesting is that when Singh said that the doctrine is not absolute he was in Pokhran, the very site of India’s nuclear weapons tests in the late 1990s.
Russia’s role cannot be overstated. Russia has been, for years, the biggest maker for India’s nuclear technology. For example, in a 2011 article from the Russian publication Nezavisimaya Gazeta, it reads that to maintain Moscow’s position in India, Russia must be the major creator of NPPs (nuclear power plants) in the country:
For now, Russia is the only country that is building an NPP in India. How
to retain our leadership? The Indian market is important to Moscow. The
director of the Center for Energy and Security and chief editor of the
journal Yadernyy Klub, Anton Khlopkov, said in the course of a video link
between Moscow and Delhi, that, in the next 20 years, every second
generating unit that the Russian federation builds abroad will be built in
Here is a question that comes to mind, if Russia is truly an ally of China, then why would it help develop the fastest cruise missile on earth for a country that is a major enemy of China? And, is Russia helping to set up a war between India and Pakistan? China has an alliance with Pakistan, the biggest enemy of India. For this, India has an alliance with Iran since its the biggest enemy of Saudi Arabia which is a major ally to Pakistan. Antagonisms between South Asian countries expands to the rivalries that go on in the Middle East. Russia has even backed India on the issue of Kashmir which both India and Pakistan have been claiming for themselves. Russia’s relations with india are both economic and geopolitical. For one, Russians have had, for a long time, a fear that Chinese people could migrate into and settle on uninhabited regions bordering with China’s north-eastern borders. As we read in a report from the Hindu Business Line:
The Russians have for long feared that large numbers of Chinese would move in and take control of their sparsely populated territories, across their north-eastern borders. This is an important reason for Russia welcoming Indian and other foreign investments and personnel for projects in its Far East. Despite the present Sino-Russian bonhomie, the Russians deeply distrust long-term Chinese intentions. Even today, Moscow hedges its bets and keeps it channels of communication and cooperation open, with both India and Vietnam.
During the 1971 Bangladesh conflict between India and Pakistan, in which Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan (and India backed the Bangladeshis), the United States under Nixon was on the side of Pakistan while Russia was on the side of India. In fact, there were three Security Council Resolutions directed against India which the Soviet Union vetoed. Moreover, Russia warned China to not get involved in the Bangladesh conflict by deploying a huge force of mechanized infantry and air power alongside the Kazakh border.
When the US Seventh Fleet’s nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, was cruising into the Bay of the Bengal in December of 1971, a Russian nuclear submarine followed it. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Clinton told Russian President Boris Yeltsin to cease cooperation with India’s space program. Russian scientists, ignoring Yeltsin, gave designs of cryogenic engines to India’s space programme.
Russia has an interest of maintaining trade with both China and India, especially in things like liquid natural gas (LNG). But at the same time Russia does not want to be dependent on China to buy its LNG. Russia wants to export LNG to India, establishing an energy corridor between Vladivostok and Chennai. A report from Nikkei published in November of 2019 reads:
When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vladivostok in September, Moscow and New Delhi adopted a five-year road map to establish a “Far Eastern Energy Corridor” that would boost Russian oil, gas and coal exports to India.
Russia wants India to buy its LNG so that it no longer has to depend on China to buy Russian liquid natural gas. Artyom Lukin, deputy director for research at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, explained:
“Russia wants to insure and diversify its energy customer base to not depend exclusively on Europe and China — our two biggest buyers … We, of course, would like for India to become the third major customer for our hydrocarbons.”
Chris Weafer, CEO of Moscow-based Macro Advisory, a consultancy firm, also explained that Moscow wants to use energy as a means to deepening ties with India in order to expand its trade and encourage Indian investors into Russia. Weafer also explained:
“What we have seen from the Kremlin over the years is that it regards good business and good politics as the ideal combination, rather than having only one … With India, we definitely see a good political relationship and Russia wants to cement that with a good economic relationship.”
Saudi Arabia is currently the second largest provider of oil to India, so the Indians, not wanting to rely on a major ally to Pakistan, are looking to Russia for energy. This falls into the Saudi-Pakistan-China vs. Russia-India-Irania dichotomy. This tension between the two alliances can be seen in the fact that India wants to establish a shipping port in Chabahar in Iran and that this has garnered the ire of the Americans. Recently the Trump administration gave India a narrow exemption for the port and said that it’ll continue only if the Iranian Revolutionary Guard does not take part in the port’s development. “We have provided a narrow exemption (to India) for the development of Chabahar that allows for the construction of the port and the rail line that allows for the export of refined oil products to Afghanistan,” a senior State Department official told reporters. India wants the port since it counters Pakistan’s Gwadar Port which is being developed thanks to Chinese investment.
Iran is a major ally to Russia, as well as India, and the fact that the US doesn’t like this, that Pakistan — a US ally — is competing against the Chabahar port, and that Russia and India want to counter Saudi, signifies the reality of this dichotomy. Alliances change, and alliances can be nothing but shows. But the bottom line is economic and geopolitical advantages. Russia sees in India an economic gain and at the same time a way to keep in check a competitor in Asia, China, while at the same time making money off of the Chinese. Meanwhile, Russia has tensions with Japan over the Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, and the Japanese are the biggest enemy to the Chinese, so its important for Russia to maintain relations with China while controlling her power expansion in Asia.