NEW DELHI: India on Thursday signed a $3 billion deal with Russia to lease a third nuclear-powered submarine in a major boost to its role as the net security provider in the Indian Ocean region.

The agreement was signed in New Delhi and the submarine could be delivered to the Indian Navy by 2025, according to a person familiar with the development.

In 1988, the Indian Navy leased for three years a nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine that was christened INS Chakra. In 2012, it took on lease for 10 years, a second submarine christened Chakra II, which currently serves with the Eastern Naval Command. India and Russia are discussing extending the lease of this submarine to 2027.

The lease period for the new submarine, christened Chakra III, is not yet known. However, the submarine is expected to serve the Indian Navy for at least a decade.

One of the incomplete Soviet-era Akula hulls mothballed at the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk, Russia, will be refitted and rebuilt with Indian sensors, operation room electronics and communication equipment before it is delivered to India, according to Russia’s Sputnik News.

The main purpose behind leasing the Russian nuclear-powered submarines is to train Indian naval personnel in manning the country’s own fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, the person mentioned above said on condition of anonymity. The Chakra-III is expected to give India an edge over its rivals in the Indian Ocean region given one of the major strengths of a nuclear submarine is its ability to remain underwater for months, making detection difficult. The Indian Navy is seen as a net security provider in the region, which has some of the busiest shipping lanes.

India’s maritime security strategy encompasses plans to provide an environment free from traditional and non-traditional threats. India’s first indigenously-built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the INS Arihant, entered service in 2016. A second, the INS Arighat, was launched in 2017. Two more are under construction.

Thursday’s deal follows India ordering the S-400 Triumf air defence missile system for over $5 billion from Russia during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi last October. On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that AK-203 assault rifles would be manufactured in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, under an agreement between the two countries.

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