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Russia should share defence tech, manufacture in India: Jaitley

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India has asked Russia to adopt a liberal approach in sharing technology for components of major defence platforms saying it was critical to keep them in operational readiness as most of its weapons systems are of Russian-origin.

Calling for deeper bilateral engagement in defence production, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said Russia should at least facilitate manufacturing of parts and sub systems which are needed in large numbers and where the requirement is recurring in nature.

"Since most of our defence platforms and weapons systems are of Russian origin, their maintenance and life-cycle support is extremely important for us for our defence preparedness," Jaitley said on March 17  while addressing a conference on India-Russia Military and Industrial cooperation.

It was his first public engagement on matters relating to defence after assuming charge of the key Ministry earlier last week for a second stint.

Two agreements were signed at the conference between India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation and United Engine Corporation for long term supply of spares and technical assistance for Sukhoi 30MKI aircraft for five years.

Jaitley said manufacturing of key components for Russian origin military systems in India was important to ensure that the armed forces do not lose critical time in repairing and maintaining these equipment.

It has been a long-standing grievance of armed forces that supply of critical spares and equipment from Russia takes a long time affecting maintenance of military systems procured from that country.

Jaitley said India's FDI policy for defence is one of the most liberal in the world and weapons manufacturers from both the countries should join hands, eying the global supply chain besides the domestic market.

"Russian companies can be natural partners for Indian companies as most of our defence equipment and inventory are of Russian origin," he said.

On export of military systems, he said though India is presently not a member of Wassenaar export control regime, it was hopeful of membership soon.

"Our export control processes and technology security mechanism are robust and as strict as required in the interest of national security. I think there is a tremendous scope for collaboration (between defence firms of the two countries) so that they are part of a global supply chain," he said.

Russia's Minister for Industry and Trade Denis Manturov said his country is ready for sharing technology with India, including for production of military aircraft, warships and weapons systems.

He said Russia is ready to set up centres of competence across India for maintenance of Russian-origin platforms.

The conference was aimed at addressing issues relating to life-cycle support and maintenance of Su-30MKI aircraft, Mi-17 helicopters, MiG-29K jets, T-90 tanks and aircraft carrier Vikramaditya.

Asking Russian companies to either ensure technology transfer or form joint ventures with Indian firms, Jaitley said though India is the largest importer of defence equipment globally, it is not a label the country is happy with.

The Defence Minister referred to joint production of Su-30 jets and BRAHMOS missile system as success stories in high-end technical collaboration between the two close partner countries.

Jaitley said 'Make in India' for defence production is not only aimed at requirements of India's armed forces but also for encouraging Indian companies to be part of the global weapons supply chain.

He said the Government had significantly liberalised foreign investment in defence sector and more steps are underway to promote indigenous development of military platforms.

"Many of the defence platforms, particularly Russian platforms made in India under license production, have very high import content because these components are sub-systems and are still imported.

"We need to review this trend and increase indigenous content of our defence capital procurement," Jaitley said.

He said Russian companies may identify some of the military systems for global export from India for which they can set up joint ventures with Indian companies.

"I think there is a tremendous potential for collaboration between Indian and Russian companies for export," he said.

It is the first such conference having participation of large number of Indian and Russian companies along with government representatives from both sides.

About 150 representatives from Russia participated at the two-day conference.

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