Rajnath Singh on three-day visit to Russia2 min read . Updated: 22 Jun 2020, 04:55 PM IST
- Reports say Singh is expected to ask Moscow to urgently supply spares required by the Indian military against the backdrop of tensions with China
NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday left for a three-day visit to Russia during which he is expected to ask Moscow to urgently supply spares required by the Indian military against the backdrop of tensions with China.
Though Singh’s visit is to attend the ceremonies associated with the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany in the Second World War, a report by ANI news agency said Singh will ask Russia to supply the spares needed for Indian fighter jets, tanks and submarine to be dispatched by air rather than by ship to cut short the time taken for the transfer.
Another ANI report had last week said Singh would seek 21 MiG-29s from Russia as well as 12 Sukhoi MKI. Though on the negotiation table for more than two years, the Indian defence ministry was expected to fast track the clearances for procuring the additional aircraft to make up for shortfalls incurred by the phase out of older MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft besides the loss of SU-30MKI through crashes. The deal to procure the MiG-29s and SU-30MKI was worth about ₹5,000- ₹6,000 crores. The Ministry of Defence, the Indian Air Force nor the Russian embassy in New Delhi confirmed ANI reports.
Singh is expected to discuss these issues with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of ceremonies associated with Victory Day celebrations, the ANI report said.
The visit to Russia – seen as close to India during the Cold War years – is Singh’s first in four months as foreign travels have been restricted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Of late, Russia is seen close to China, especially since Western countries led by the US imposed sanctions on Russia for annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Russian ties with Western countries dipped further with the downing of a Malaysia passenger jet also in 2014. MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014 when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Moscow rebels amid fighting in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed most of whom were Dutch nationals.
Ties between India and China have deteriorated sharply since May with the troops on both sides clashing at several locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in an attempt by China to push further into Indian territory and claim it for itself citing the undemarcated border.
On 15 June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent faceoff between the two sides seen as the bloodiest in 45 years. Singh had a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs before his departure for Moscow on Monday.
"Leaving for Moscow on a three day visit. The visit to Russia will give me an opportunity to hold talks on ways to further deepen the India-Russia defence and strategic partnership. I shall also be attending the 75th Victory Day Parade in Moscow," Singh said in a Twitter post before departing for Moscow. A tri-service 75-member Indian military contingent has already reached Moscow to participate in the parade. The Indian team will participate in the parade alongside armed forces personnel from at least 11 countries, including China.
India has put its troops across the LAC on high alert. Air force stations in forward areas near the LAC and some others have also been put on alert. The Indian Navy has also been asked to be on standby alert in the wake of tensions with China.