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India-Russia Defence Relations

India-Russia Defence

History of India-Russia Defence Ties

  1. In the early years after gaining independence, India heavily relied on the British and Western countries for its arms and defense equipment.
  2. By the 1970s, India’s dependence on Western nations lessened, and it began importing a significant portion of its defense technology and systems from the USSR, which is now known as Russia. This partnership continued for several decades.
  3. Russia has been a vital source of various critical defense platforms that India needed, including nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, tanks, artillery, fighter jets, and missiles.

What Defence Equipment does India procure From Russia?


  • India’s first-ever submarine from the Soviet Union was the INS Kalvari, a Foxtrot Class submarine, joining the Indian Navy in 1967.
  • Out of India’s 16 conventional diesel-electric submarines, eight are Kilo class submarines of Soviet origin.
  • India’s nuclear ballistic submarine, the INS Arihant, was built with Russian technology.

Frigates & Guided-missile Destroyers:

  • India’s Navy includes four Russian Kashin class guided-missile destroyers and six Russian Talwar class frigates.

Aircraft Carrier:

  • India’s sole aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Kiev-class vessel from the Soviet era, commissioned into the Indian Navy in 2013.

Missile Program:

  • India’s missile program has received substantial support from Russia. The BrahMos missile, developed jointly with Russia, will soon be exported by India.

Fighter Aircraft:

  • Russia has been a major supplier of fighter aircraft to India, including Sukhoi and MiG jets.
  • All six of India’s air tankers are Russian-made Il-78s.

Arms and Ammunitions:

  • According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), a significant portion of India’s military equipment is Russian-made or based on Russian designs.


  • The Indian Army’s main battle tank force primarily consists of Russian T-72M1 (66%) and T-90S (30%) tanks.

Favorable Russian Military Exports to India:

  • Russia’s influence in India is partly due to its willingness to supply advanced weapons and technologies not readily available from other countries.
  • While the U.S. provides non-lethal defense technology, such as aircraft like the C-130j Super Hercules and C-13 Globemaster, Russia offers high-end technology like the BrahMos supersonic missile and the S-400 anti-missile system.
  • Russia continues to provide advanced weapons platforms at relatively attractive rates.

What can be the Impact of the Russia-Ukraine War on Military Supplies?

Currently, there are two significant defense agreements between India and Russia, and they face potential risks due to the ongoing crisis.

S-400 Triumf Air-Defense System Deal:

  • This agreement is in danger of facing American sanctions, although the United States has not reached a decision on it yet.
  • The recent imposition of sanctions on Russia could further jeopardize this deal.

Joint Submarine Development:

  • Russia has proposed the construction of six Air Independent Propulsion (AIP-powered) conventional submarines for the Indian Navy as part of the P75-I project. Four other international bidders are also in contention.
  • India is currently in negotiations with Russia to lease two nuclear-ballistic submarines, known as Chakra 3 and Chakra 4. The first of these submarines is expected to be delivered by 2025.

What are India’s Plans to Diversify Arms Import Diversification?

  • In recent years, there has been a deliberate effort to diversify the sources of weapons, both from other countries and within India.
  • According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India reduced its arms imports by 33% between 2011–15 and 2016–20.
  • The USA was India’s second-largest arms supplier in the period from 2011 to 2015. However, in the years from 2016 to 2020, India’s arms imports from the USA dropped by 46%, making the USA the fourth-largest supplier during that time.
  • France and Israel emerged as the second and third largest arms suppliers to India in the period from 2016 to 2020.

Way Forward:

  • As India perceives increasing threats from Pakistan and China and as its ambitious plans to produce its own major arms have been significantly delayed, it is planning large-scale programmes for arms imports.
  • India’s outstanding deliveries of combat aircraft, air defence systems, ships and submarines, India’s arms imports are expected to increase over the coming five years.
  • Therefore, it is important for India to diversify its base, to not become too reliant on any single nation, as it can become a leverage that can be exploited by that nation.

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