India and Russia sign major military, nuclear and energy deals

In the service of the imperialist ambitions of the Indian bourgeoisie

At the summit meeting between PM Modi and Russian President Putin, held on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Goa on October 15, the two sides signed 16 agreements, which included 3 major military deals.

The military deals were for acquisition by India from Russia of: 1) 5 S-400 Triumf air defence systems at the cost of Rs 39,000 crore; 2) 4 stealth frigates for the Navy costing over US$ 3 billion; and 3) Kamov-226T utility helicopters, to be jointly produced by Russia and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Together, these deals are expected to cost India close to $8 billion – equal to the total bilateral trade between the countries.

In addition, Modi and Putin inaugurated by video link the foundation laying ceremony of units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant built with Russian assistance.

Another major deal was the Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft acquiring 49% controlling stake of Essar Oil, including the refinery and port at Vadinar, at a cost of $12.9 billion.  This is supposed to be the biggest foreign takeover in India, and the largest such deal for Russia abroad.

Russian company Gazprom and Engineers India Limited agreed to jointly explore the feasibility of a gas pipeline connecting the two countries. Each of the two countries put in $500 million in a joint investment fund they set up at the Summit.

India and Russia also agreed to jointly hold a military technology conference – with private and public sector participation – and to set up science and technology talks for joint research in defence technology.

Put together, these deals show that the relationship between the Russian state and the Indian state remains strong, despite India’s growing closeness with the US and Japan in recent years.  They belie recent speculation in the media of a ‘coolness’ or ‘drift’ in the India-Russia relationship, allegedly because of  the US overtaking Russia as the biggest arms supplier, Russia abandoning its policy of not supplying military equipment to Pakistan in 2014, and most recently, the first-ever Pakistan-Russia military exercises conducted in Pakistan in September. What these big-ticket deals just signed with Russia show is that Russia remains a most important collaborator for the Indian bourgeoisie, particularly in nuclear energy and in the transfer of advanced military technology through co-production.  Apart from these deals which were announced, two major deals are in the process of finalizing – one, for India to acquire fifth-generation fighter aircraft from Russia, and also for a second nuclear submarine. 

Russia, too, currently is looking towards the Indian market with greater interest, hoping to benefit from these strategic and military deals, since sanctions imposed on it by the Western imperialist powers after their conflict over Ukraine have hit Russia hard.  Being a major oil supplier, the fall in global oil prices has also affected Russia. 

However, despite the strong ties based on military, nuclear and energy cooperation, trade and economic ties between India and Russia remain very low.  The volume of trade currently stands at just $12 billion, compared to over $70 billion with China and over $100 billion with the US. The recent India-Russia Summit is also reported to have taken steps to improve trade and business between the two countries.

These massive military and strategic deals with Russia are part of the drive of the Indian bourgeoisie towards rapid militarization, as part of its ambition of becoming a global power. These recently concluded deals also include joint manufacture in India, in strategic partnership with Indian public sector and private sector companies, under the “make in India” arrangement.   Setting up a military industrial complex like those of other major imperialist powers is an important component of this program. All the major capitalist monopolies of India have entered the sector of arms production in a demonstrative way. While these big Indian monopoly capitalists will reap fabulous profits through these arms deals, the Indian working class and people will have to bear the burden of these defence deals, running into hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees.

Seen in the context of the current and periodic, extremely high-pitched warmongering by the Indian state against Pakistan as well as its increasingly tense relations with China, these latest defence deals are yet another signal that the Indian bourgeoisie is sending out to its neighbouring countries, that it is preparing to assert its dominant position in this region, if necessary, even militarily. The Triumf air defence system is supposed to be one of the most advanced in the world, capable of targeting aircraft at a distance of 400 km, i.e. well outside Indian air space.  The Kamov helicopters can operate at a height of over 20,000 ft above sea level and are meant to be deployed in Siachen, which means that this ‘highest battleground in the world’ will continue to swallow up huge resources of the country. 

The Indian state is playing for dangerously high stakes and throwing our people’s resources into an upwardly spiraling process of militarization.  The rapid pace of militarization and the imperialist ambitions of the Indian bourgeoisie are leading to grave dangers for the peace and security of our people and this entire region. While the government is patting itself on the back for securing these deals from Russia, the people of our country have nothing to rejoice about, but only greater dangers to our peace and security to worry about.

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