With $13 Billion Imports in Last Five Years, India Remains Largest Buyer of Russian Arms: Report

Despite Western sanctions against Russia and global appeals to India to stop trading with Russia in the wake of the Ukraine war, India has continued with its exports from Russia.

New Delhi: Russian state news agencies on Sunday, February 12, reported that Russia had supplied India with $13 billion worth of arms in the past five years.

India has also placed a requisition for another $10 billion worth of arms and military equipment with Russia, the reports added. India’s procurement accounts for 20% of Russia’s defence exports.

Despite Western sanctions against Russia and global appeals to India to stop trading with Russia in the wake of the Ukraine war, India has continued with its exports from Russia. Since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022, India has maintained that dialogue and diplomacy are necessary to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and has made it clear that it would not snap its economic ties with Russia.

The reports quoted Dmitry Shugayev, the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, stating that India, China and some Southeast Asian countries have maintained their interest in buying Russian arms.

“Despite the unprecedented pressure on India from Western countries led by the United States in connection with Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, it continues to be one of Russia’s main partners in the field of military-technical cooperation,” Interfax agency quoted Shugayev as saying.

The agency also reported that annual arms exports were about $14-15 billion, and the order book has remained steady at around $50 billion, Interfax reported.

Russia’s clientele for defence equipment in Asia is particularly drawn to S-400 Triumf missile defence systems; short-range surface-to-air missiles systems, such as the Osa, Pechora or Strela; as well as Su-30 warplanes, MiG-29 helicopters and drones, Shugayev said.

TASS, a state news agency in Russia, reported that Russia will present about 200 samples of weapons and military equipment at the 14th international aerospace exhibition Aero India 2023, which opened on Monday, February 13, in Bengaluru.

At the inauguration of the Aero show in Bengaluru on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi meanwhile said that India aims to increase its defence exports from the current $1.5 billion to $5 billion a year by 2024-25.

According to India Today, in the last five years, India’s defence exports have increased by six times. India is now exporting defence equipment to 75 countries. Italy, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Russia, France, Nepal, Mauritius, Israel, Egypt, UAE, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Poland, Spain and Chile are among India’s defence export destinations.

However, defence experts are not convinced by the ambitious plan set out by Modi. “From just a 0.2% share in global arms exports, becoming a major exporter is a long haul,” Reuters quoted Amit Cowshish, a former financial advisor in the defence ministry, as saying.

“Some of the biggest importing countries, even if they are willing, will find it difficult to withstand pressures from Europe and the U.S. to consider buying whatever little we have to offer by way of major equipment and platforms,” Cowshish added.

Meanwhile, in another development, the defence ministry told Rajya Sabha on Monday that 23 out of 55 Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) ‘mission mode’ projects are running behind schedule.

The mission mode projects are high-priority programmes based on the specific operational requirements put forth by forces and should have been completed within definitive time frames. Delays in such projects could affect the operational efficiency of the forces.