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'Indo-Russia relations strong despite India's growing ties with US, Israel'

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ZHUKOVSKY, RUSSIA (PTI): Russia will always be India's strategic partner despite New Delhi's growing ties with countries like the US, France and Israel as there are certain defence products and technology that "no one else will give" except Moscow, a top Russian official has said.

Sergei Chemezov, the CEO of the Rostec State Corporation, said cooperation with India will certainly continue, regardless of whether India cooperates only with Russia or also with Israel, France, the US or other countries.

"We have our own niche, these countries have their own directions for cooperation. Therefore, this does not mean that if India will work with some other countries, cooperation with Russia will cease. No," Chemezov told a select group of reporters on the sidelines of Russia's premier air show MAKS 2017 at Zhukovsky near Moscow.

"There are defence products and technology that no one else will give except Russia. Therefore, Russia has always been and will be a strategic partner of India," he asserted when asked about the prospects of Indo-Russia cooperation given India's growing defence collaboration with other countries.

Rostec Corporation, one of the main organisers of MAKS- 2017, presented the latest Russian developments in the space industry as well as in aircraft and helicopter engineering and weapons at the event hosted here from July 18-23.

"I would like to note that Russia is the only partner to fully transfer manufacturing technologies to India, allowing Indian defence enterprises to set up full-scale production of their own defence products," said the head of Rostec, Russia's umbrella organisation of 700 hi-tech civilian and military firms.

Currently, the Military and Technical Cooperation (MTC) between Russia and India is planned for the long-term. The parties are currently implementing the MTC Programme for 2011-2020, he said.

Russia has been one of India's major suppliers of arms and ammunition.

However, it has been a long-standing grievance of Indian armed forces that the supply of critical spares and equipment from Russia takes a long time affecting maintenance of military systems procured from that country.

Also, in recent years India's defence ties with the US and Israel have deepened. Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian premier to visit Israel last month.

The US designated India a major defence partner last year. India also inked a multi-million dollar deal with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets last year.

However, Chemezov reiterated that India has been and remains Russia's strategic partner.

The bulk of Russia's exports go to Southeast Asia, India and China, he noted.

"They are our two major partners. Every year we supply products to India for more than US$ 2 billion. Sometimes it is more. Therefore, we have about the same volumes last year as before. That is, there are changes, but insignificant, somewhere in the range of 10-15 per cent is the fluctuation," said Chemezov.

"Therefore, with regard to cooperation with India, it is aimed not only at selling products, but we are also transferring technology. It began with the late 90s with the sale of licenses for SU-30MKIs," he said.

Military and technical cooperation is certainly the main area for collaboration with India, Chemezov noted.

According to some estimates, 40 per cent of weapons and military equipment of the Indian land force, 80 per cent of the Indian Air Force and 75 per cent of the Indian Navy was manufactured by the USSR and Russia or produced in India under the Soviet and Russian licenses, he said.

"I would like to stress that India is a privileged strategic partner of Russia. Despite the tough international competition, we demonstrate that the military and technical cooperation between Russia and India does not only develop stably but also deepens," Chemezov said.

He said Rostec's strategy was to further expand the cooperation with Indian manufacturers in compliance with the Indian Government's "Make in India" policy.

Highlighting the growing Indo-Russia cooperation, Chemezov pointed out that the SU-30MKIs are manufactured in India and stated that the country has mastered the production of the T-90 tank.

Asked about opportunities for joint exercises, Deputy Minister of Defence Yuri Borisov, at the same briefing, said, "We are always in contact with our Indian colleagues, we have an intergovernmental commission, on our side it is headed by our Defence Minister – Sergey Shoigu. We constantly meet and discuss the issues."

On the contentious issue of Western nations' sanctions against Russia, Chemezov said, "I think that in 1-2 years we will close our needs for components that we bought abroad. As a result, who will suffer? Our partners with whom we once worked, from European countries, from Ukraine, will suffer."

"As for Europe and the West, we had excellent relations with Safran, Thales, Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, with them we had joint ventures.

"Some of them continue to work independently of sanctions. Nevertheless, many partners wanted to continue work with us. Unfortunately, because of the sanctions, they cannot do this. Life forced us to develop our industry even more, the result you can observe today," he said.

Chemezov asserted that it was the Western countries that lost the market, "and not a small one".

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