India has once again flagged delays in the supply of defence equipment and spares by Russia at the annual meeting of their defence ministers, apart from the "tardy" progress in the design and development of a multi-role transport aircraft.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is here on a three-day visit, raised these issues with his counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov during the 11th meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.
"Antony drew the attention of the Russian side to the vexing issue of delayed export clearances for vital repair equipment for already contracted weapons systems. This has been affecting supplies of defence equipment and spares," Indian defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar, who is part of Antony’s delegation, said about the meeting.
"The Russian side assured the Indian side that the matter was receiving attention at highest levels in the Russian government and efforts would made to institutionalise measures to avoid such delays in future," he added.
India has in the recent months issued hundreds of tenders for spares for Soviet-era military equipment including fighter jets such as MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27, apart from radars and missiles, all worth millions of US dollars.
Antony also expressed India’s concern at the tardy progress made in the design and development of the multi-role transport aircraft (MTA), for which the two countries signed an agreement, Kar said.
"The two sides agreed to accelerate the progress of this (MTA) project and they would be meeting later this month," he added.
India is planning to induct 45 MTAs into its air force in five years from now.
Referring to the planned delivery of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov), Antony said: "We are keenly awaiting the induction of the warship into the Indian Navy. This project has attracted considerable public attention in India. We hope that the induction will take place, on schedule, by end 2012. We also hope that all activities on the MiG-29K naval combat plane are completed to achieve synchronisation with the aircraft carrier."
Regarding the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), being jointly designed and developed by India and Russia, the two sides noted that the first stage of the preliminary design contract had been successfully completed and the second stage of the contract would be finalised before September 2012.
The training programme for Indian engineers, covering nearly 20 courses, was completed in July 2011. Both sides agreed to continue discussions for finalisation of the research and development contract as per agreed timelines of the general contract signed in December 2008.
During the discussions, the Russian defence minister spoke about his country’s views on India’s policy on defence offsets, which mandated the winner of a military equipment contract worth over Rs.300 crore ploughing 30 percent or more of the deal amount in the Indian defence sector, internal security and aerospace industries.
Antony informed Serdyukov that the Indian offset guidelines are presently under revision.
These issues apart, the commission meeting was held in a spirit of a cooperation and understanding and the two nations expressed "readiness to take all necessary measures to further expand the cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis", Kar said.
In a protocol signed after the meeting, India and Russia noted with satisfaction that during the period under review various diligent steps were taken "to deepen interaction in the development of defence technologies, modernization of military equipment and joint manufacture of military-purpose products".
"Such cooperation involves the strengthening of interactions between the armed forces, defence industry enterprises and research agencies of the two countries," the protocol noted.
Later, Antony told Indian journalists: "Distinct improvements have taken place in the pace of progress of many critical projects in the last one year. We value our friendship a great deal. Together we would like to consolidate our relationship and take it forward".