The submarines would bolster India's ability to patrol its waters as it seeks to thwart China's efforts to extend influence in the Indian Ocean
New Delhi: Russia said it’s ready to lease India more nuclear-powered submarines a day after President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to deepen defence ties.
“If India decides to have more contracts to lease nuclear submarines, we are ready to supply," Russian trade minister Denis Manturov said in an interview in New Delhi today.
The vessels would bolster India’s ability to patrol its waters as it seeks to thwart China’s efforts to extend influence in the Indian Ocean. Russia, whose economy is being pushed toward a recession by sanctions over Ukraine, aims to boost defence sales and deepen its ties to friendlier nations in Asia.
“Russia will remain our most important defence partner," Modi said on Thursday after welcoming Putin to the capital. They discussed a “broad range of new defence projects," including plans to make one of Russia’s most advanced helicopters in India, he said.
India inducted its first nuclear attack submarine from Russia for $1 billion in 2012 under a 10-year contract, which can carry out longer missions and respond faster to threats. It’s fleet of 14 diesel-power submarines are more than a decade old, with half of them commissioned in the 1980s.
“Nuclear-powered submarines have assumed far greater significance and changed the complexion of maritime warfare," then-defence minister A.K. Antony said the induction ceremony.
India is seeking to build up its naval defences amid growing maritime tensions with China. It sent a nuclear submarine to the Indian Ocean in December for a two-month anti- piracy patrol. The waters are home to shipping lanes carrying about 80% of the world’s seaborne oil.
China has at least 52 submarines in its fleet, including three nuclear-missile vessels and three operating on nuclear power, the US Congressional Research Service said in July, citing Jane’s Fighting Ships 2013-2014 and previous editions.
India has also yet to build a single submarine of the 24 it’d planned starting in 1999, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar told parliament on Friday.
Mishaps are also common: an explosion in August 2013 on a diesel-powered submarine, just months after the vessel returned from a $133 million refit at a Russian shipyard, was the worst-ever disaster for India’s submarine program.
Putin this week pledged to supply oil, weapons and nuclear power reactors to India. Modi, in turn, reassured the Russian leader that India opposes sanctions and asked Putin to build factories in the country to supply spare parts and components for Russian military equipment.
“Russia will have to quadruple its current investments of $3.7 billion in India for the two countries to meet their bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025," Manturov said. “Reaching that target will mean India breaking into Russia’s top five trading partners, up from the current rank of 21," he said.
The two nations said they recognized “the virtually unlimited opportunities for enhancing" their defence cooperation, including joint manufacturing and technology sharing, according to a joint statement on Thursday. India allows foreign direct investment in the defence sector of up to 49%.
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