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Russia More Reliable Defense Partner Than US: IAF and Navy Veterans

© Sputnik / Alexander Wilf / Go to the mediabankThis Week in Pictures: August 25-31
This Week in Pictures: August 25-31 - Sputnik India, 1920, 07.04.2023
India will soon test-fire the Russian-made S-400 missile system, which New Delhi acquired in a $5.43 billion deal in 2018.
The Indian Armed Forces view Russia as their most trusted, reliable, and strongest military partner at present despite a growing defense partnership with the United States, two veterans associated with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy said.
According to them, the Indian Army, IAF, and the Navy have a deep-seated trust in Russian weapons systems and are more comfortable and confident about the arms and ammunition procured from the Eurasian country than acquired from Western nations or the US.
As per Commodore Anil Jai Singh, a former Indian Navy officer specializing in submarine warfare, Russia has been a trusted partner for India since Soviet days.
Anti-aircraft defense system S-400 Triumph  - Sputnik India, 1920, 05.04.2023
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Over 70% of IAF Equipment of Russian Origin

India started getting defense equipment from Russia in the 1960s. New Delhi got the Foxtrot class of submarines, the Petya class corvettes, and Osa class missile boats, all of which performed very successfully in the 1971 war against Pakistan.
After the treaty of friendship that was inked in 1971, the Soviet Union began supporting India in its strategic initiatives, particularly when it came to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the Soviet Union was always on the Indian side - and thereafter Russia followed suit.

"Over the years, we have been using a lot of Russian equipment. Almost 70% of the Indian Air Force's equipment is Russian, 50 to 60 percent of the army's hardware is Russian with most of the armor being Russian, including the T72 tanks and the T90 tanks," Singh told Sputnik on Friday.

In the navy, India has had Russian equipment for a very long time. The country's blue-water force had the Foxtrot class submarines, kilo-class submarines, and then it had the Kashin-class destroyers which performed extremely well for almost 35 years. Then, of course, India got the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya from Russia in the last decade.

"Russia is the only country to have leased a nuclear submarine and they have done it twice, leased to India and I understand a third submarine is also likely to come in 2025," Singh, who currently serves as the vice president of the New Delhi-based Indian Maritime Foundation added.

Deep-Seated Trust

India has always been confident that Russia will support its requirements. At the moment, the country is quite dependent on Russia for support for the legacy equipment it has -- be it kilo-class submarines, Vikramaditya or the Brahmos missile system, a very prominent Indo-Russian joint venture.
"Now we are getting the S-400 system which is a strategic weapon system. So, these are the things which over the years have seen the relationship mushrooming and because of the experience of handling this equipment, and understanding this equipment, we have developed a certain amount of confidence in the equipment and in the support we have received," the former naval officer opined.
A kilo class Indian submarine participates in the final rehearsal of International Fleet review in Vishakapatnam, India, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. - Sputnik India, 1920, 16.03.2023
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From an American perspective, Singh said that he wouldn't say that India is skeptical about their military hardware. However, the relationship is not deep enough or mature enough for New Delhi to have that confidence that it can count on the US at all times for everything.

"Because in previous cases, both in 1965 and 1971, America was very distinctly inclined towards Pakistan. So these are the sort of things in people's minds - Is America reliable? Will it support us in the time of need as Russia has done in the past? That is why there is a lot of skepticism, secondly we have only started operating American equipment recently," Singh pointed out.

In the last few years, India has got P-8Is maritime patrol aircraft, but the Indian forces still don't know what technical support is available, how much transfer of technology they are willing to do, and what they expect in the Indo-Pacific from India.
"India's Armed Forces are more comfortable or more confident of Russia being a reliable partner than America at present, that is my take on this," Anil Jai Singh noted, noting that this is not to say that America cannot be a rival partner, it is just that the level of confidence and trust will take time to build.

Can United States Be Trusted?

Air Marshal (Retd) Muthumanickam Matheswaran, a former deputy chief of integrated defence staff (IDS), agreed with Singh's views on the matter.
Speaking to Sputnik this weekend, Matheswaran commented that right from the time of the 1960s when the relationship with the Soviets started, Russia has been the main supplier of weapons systems to India.
The former IAF officer then delved into history, saying it is important to understand that during the bipolar world era when there was an intense Cold War between the US bloc and the Soviet bloc, India had decided to remain neutral and not take anyone's side besides championing the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
"The Western world particularly saw India almost on the side of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Pakistan, which was part of a US-led military alliance, kept getting a lot of military assistance from the Americans," Matheswaran elaborated.
"The US viewed India as not part of its system. We had a frozen relationship with the US from a military perspective and it affected our relations with other Western countries as well. Therefore the leading military equipment that we wanted for combat operations was not easily available from the West European countries like the UK, France, Germany, and the US, etc," he added.
Matheswaran asserted that during that time, Russia came to India's support, leading to a strong military-industrial relationship. The Soviets allowed Indians to license-produce Soviet weapons systems, which according to him were "dirt cheap".
He remarked that the military was being built up because of the humiliation India received at the hands of the Chinese in 1962. The military was growing and it needed massive weapons systems. India's defense industry was not capable of producing the kind of weapons that the country's armed forces wanted as the defense technology base did not exist there at the time.
India produced Soviet weapons under license, whether it was aircraft, submarines, ships, guns, or tanks - almost everything was being produced here in India and bought from Russia as well.
More importantly, in the 1971 war against Pakistan, the US was openly against India and threatened New Delhi and the Soviet support in the UN Security Council and the strategic relationship in other domains like space, nuclear energy, heavy industries, etc, all that put together, made Indians view Russia as a very reliable, strong and strategic partner at all times.
Matheswaran highlighted one of the main reasons behind the trust the Indian Armed Forces have in Russian arms and ammunition, stating that they are much better than American weapons performance-wise.
"Performance-wise Russian weapons systems are much better than the American or Western systems. Moreover, in terms of input costs and acquisition costs, the Western systems are very expensive as compared to the Russian systems," the ex-IAF officer concluded.