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US Trying to Sell Own Weapons Under Guise of Convincing India to Shun Russian Arms

© AFP 2023 VANO SHLAMOV US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland gestures as she speaks during her press conference in Tbilisi on February 17, 2015
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland gestures as she speaks during her press conference in Tbilisi on February 17, 2015 - Sputnik India, 1920, 31.01.2023
US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, is paying a visit to India as part of her four-nation tour, this week.
As New Delhi awaited the arrival of Victoria Nuland, two experts on the military and relations between India and Russia said that US efforts to wean India off Russia are nothing but a US ploy to sell its own weapons to one of the world's largest importers of defense equipment.
Nuland has said in the past that it is the duty of the US to "convince" India to shun Russian arms, adding that it is the "job we have to do".
"I think [India] find themselves after 60 years of entanglement having to find alternatives, and that's part of the job we have to do, is help them with alternatives," Nuland recently said during a Congressional hearing on Russia.
Since Moscow launched a special military operation in Ukraine last February, New Delhi has been under tremendous pressure from its foreign allies to curtail its relations with Russia. What's more, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has also been under fire for its record buying of Russian crude oil and abstaining from a UN vote on the conflict in Ukraine.
This came despite strong objections from Washington and the threat of sanctions from the Joe Biden-led administration. But India has continued to defend itself by saying that Delhi has the right to pursue an independent foreign policy that reflects its national interests.
However, Sputnik has spoken to Retired Major-General PK Sehgal and Dr Rajorshi Roy, an expert on India-Russia relations at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) - India's premier defense think-tank - to discuss the real meaning of Nuland's statement regarding Moscow-Delhi ties.
Sputnik: During her India visit, US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland will try to "convince" New Delhi to ditch imports of Russian arms. How do you view her statement, considering New Delhi and Moscow share strong military ties and Russian-made weapons are much cheaper than US and European-made arms?

Sehgal: India has categorically told Russia that we will continue to pursue what is in our national interest. There cannot be a foreign policy or defense policy of India with America and I strongly believe in that.

India is now a nation that has become powerful, its economy is strong, and a lot of indigenous weapons are being made. Russia has given us maximum support in pursuing out "Make in India" policy through the transfer of technology.
Sputnik: According to Nuland, it is America's responsibility to help India find alternatives to Russian weapons. Is it really the US' responsibility?
Sehgal: America is a nation of sellers, they are keen to sell equipment and arms to us. We have to be very careful about what weapon we are going to buy. For example, the S-400 was easily the finest weapon as far as air defense is concerned.
Despite the American threat of sanctions, we went ahead and Russia has supplied them in the timeframe agreed. Moscow has gone on record to say that India is the first country to which it will offer the S-500, the next version of the S-400.
There's absolute solidity in India-Russia defense relations as well as political relations, and the Americans will not be allowed to make any dent in them whatsoever.
Sputnik: For decades Moscow hasn't hesitated to transfer technology to India whereas the French, British, and US companies have remained reluctant on that point. In this regard, do you think it would be problematic for Washington to convince India to shun Russian arms?
Rajorshi Roy: Of course it would be, simply because first, Russia has been a true friend of India for a period of more than 50 years. If you look at India's own defense portfolio, the majority of the frontline equipment - be it fighter jets, submarines, etc in the Army, Navy and Air Force - is of Russian origin.
The entire ecosystem that we have is largely the Russian system. So, no matter how much the US might try to wean India off Russia, I think it will be a very difficult challenge for Washington to do so, simply because of our dependency on Russian equipment.
Second, there is also the trust factor with the US because if you look at the history of US embargoes, you see that you cannot put all your eggs in one basket.
Plus, the focus is on atmanirbharta (self-reliance). Any country able to offer India a genuine transfer of technology and help in building its own defense industrial base would be in pole position when it comes to building a new kind of robust defense relationship with India, and that includes Russia.
The fact is that there is a familiarity with having used Russian equipment and Russia is one of the very few countries which has genuinely involved or invested itself in the transfer of technology. So if you look at the BrahMos missiles which are a genuine example of joint production and collaboration and now we are also looking at joint exports.
Sputnik: Is geopolitical rivalry with Russia the main factor behind America's efforts to wean India off Russia, or is there more to it than that?
Rajorshi Roy: Victoria Nuland - or any foreign dignitary, for that matter - has her own agenda and that is, first, that she is looking at things in terms of the US' own geopolitical rivalry with Russia and that is why she is trying to wean India off Moscow.
If you dig deeper, it is also about selling the US' own equipment. India is one of the world's largest markets. So, if you take Russia away from the Indian market, you are basically creating a space for yourself to make inroads into one of the world's largest markets which would only benefit the US military-industrial complex.
That's one of the key objectives when the US says it will wean away India off Russia.
The second consideration is that when someone says he or she will try to wean India off Russia, it's a little presumptuous simply because every country has its own independent foreign policy. India has not outsourced its foreign policy to the US, so it is for India to decide what kind of defense industrial cooperation it will have with country A or country B regardless of what the US thinks.
That's been very clear from Day One because India has continued to buy Russian defense equipment, Russian oil, and India continues to have a robust relationship with Russia despite western pressure to choose sides.