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Working hard to ensure early supply of S-400 missile systems to India: Russia

The S-400 long range surface-to-air missile defence system. (A file photo)

NEW DELHI (PTI): Russia on Thursday said it was working "very hard" to advance the supply of the S-400 surface-to-air missiles to India even though the delivery of the first batch of the weapons system is scheduled by the end of next year.

At an online media briefing, Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin also said that both sides are working on a mutual logistics support agreement and close to seal a multi-billion dollar deal under which an Indo-Russian joint venture will produce 200 Kamov Ka-226T attack helicopters for the Indian armed forces.

Asked whether the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) signed between India and the US will have security implications in operation of Russian-origin platforms by the Indian armed forces, Babushkin did not give a direct reply, but said Moscow's defence ties with India are immune to any "restrictions and foreign interference".

"We are watching quite closely the relations in strategic areas between India and other nations including the US, of course. But at the same time we are absolutely sure that whatever ties India is developing with other nations, they would not be at the expense of Russia's interests," he said.

Last month, India and the US inked the landmark BECA agreement that will provide for sharing of high-end military technology, geospatial maps and classified satellite data between their militaries.

"As far as our defence cooperation with India is concerned, it is immune to any restrictions and foreign interference, because it reflects national interests of both countries and we are proceeding with a great sense of confidence to the future progress in our ties," Babushkin said.

On the S-400 deal, he said: "The deadlines remained unchanged at the moment. The first batch is expected to be supplied by the end of 2021 but we are working very hard for an earlier supply."

In October 2018, India had signed a US$ 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanction.

In view of the evolving security scenario in its neighbourhood, India recently requested Russia to explore the possibility of advancing the supply of the interceptor-based missile systems which can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km.

Last year, India made the first tranche of payment of around US$ 800 million to Russia for the missile systems. The S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.

Babushkin said the Kamov helicopter deal and another one to manufacture 700,000 AK-47 203 rifles in India under a Indo-Russian joint venture were in the final stages of conclusion.

In October 2016, India and Russia had finalised a broad agreement to set up joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and two Russian defence majors for procuring 200 Kamov Ka-226T choppers for Indian armed forces.

According to the understanding, 60 Kamov-226T helicopters will be supplied to India in fly-away condition, while 140 will be manufactured in India. Russia had agreed to ensure transfer of technologies to India as part of the pact.

India and Russia finalised the deal for manufacturing AK-203 rifles during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's visit to Moscow two months back.

On the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), Babushkin said it will help in deepening maritime security cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the Indian Ocean Region.

The MLSA will allow militaries of the two countries to use each other's bases for repair and replenishment of supplies besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.

India has already signed similar agreements with the US, Australia, Japan, France and Singapore.

The Russian Deputy Chief of Mission said that both countries were also working on a number of other military acquisition programmes including supply of another batch of Su-30MKI aircraft to India. The other major programmes mentioned by him are relating to main battle tanks, frigates, submarines and missiles.

The Kamov helicopters will be supplied to the Indian Air Force and Indian Army. Both these forces have been pressing for early conclusion of the deal so that they could replace their ageing fleet of existing choppers within next three to four years.

Babushkin said Russia is also aiming to ensure its largest participation in the upcoming Aero India, considered Asia's largest aerospace exhibition. The exhibition will take place in Bengaluru in February 2021.

"It will also see new developments in our defence partnerships," he said.

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