India will purchase US$5 billion worth of surface-to-air missile systems from Russia as part of a raft of deals signed on Saturday as the two former Cold War allies strengthened their military relationship.
A total of 16 agreements were concluded, mostly in defense, energy, and shipbuilding, after talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two were in the resort state of Goa, where leaders from the BRICS group of emerging nations are meeting. Modi and Putin also inaugurated units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam nuclear plant, which was built based on Russian technology.
“We agreed to work on an annual military industrial conference that will allow stakeholders on both sides to institute and push collaboration,” said Modi. Calling Russia an “old friend of India,” Modi said an old friend is better than two new friends.
Beside the purchase of Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defence systems, the two countries will collaborate in building four advanced frigate vessels and set up a joint production facility for Kamov military helicopters.
The agreements are a boon for Russia as it fought off tough competition from North American and European companies to remain India’s foremost supplier of military weaponry.
The most strategically important deal is the purchase of the S-400 long-range air defence missile system, which has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and drones at ranges of up to 400 kilometers.
India and Russia have been in talks for over a year for the purchase of at least five S-400 systems.
It is capable of firing three types of missiles, creating a so-called layered defense, and simultaneously engaging 36 targets. India would be the second buyer of the missile system after China signed a US$ 3 billion contract last year.
Another important deal is for four Admiral Grigorovich-class guided-missile stealth frigates. Under this contract, two vessels will come from Russia, while the other two will be built in India with Russian collaboration. No decision has been made on the selection of the Indian shipyard.
Russia built six Talwar-class frigates for the Indian Navy between 2003 and 2013.
The agreement to produce 200 Kamov 226T helicopters in India is worth almost US$ 1 billion. They will replace the country’s ageing Cheetah and Chetak choppers in yet another important defense deal between the two countries.