Russia said it’s ready to lease India more nuclear-powered submarines a day after President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to deepen defense ties.“If India decides to have more contracts to lease nuclear submarines, we are ready to supply,” Russian trade minister Denis Manturov said in an interview in New Delhi today.
The vessels would bolster India’s ability to patrol its waters as it seeks to thwart China’s efforts to extend influence in the Indian Ocean. Russia, whose economy is being pushed toward a recession by sanctions over Ukraine, aims to boost defense sales and deepen its ties to friendlier nations in Asia.
“Russia will remain our most important defense partner,” Modi said yesterday after welcoming Putin to the capital. They discussed a “broad range of new defense projects,” including plans to make one of Russia’s most advanced helicopters in India, he said.
India inducted its first nuclear attack submarine from Russia for $1 billion in 2012 under a 10-year contract, which can carry out longer missions and respond faster to threats. It’s fleet of 14 diesel-power submarines are more than a decade old, with half of them commissioned in the 1980s.
“Nuclear-powered submarines have assumed far greater significance and changed the complexion of maritime warfare,” then-Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the induction ceremony.
China FleetIndia is seeking to build up its naval defenses amid growing maritime tensions with China. It sent a nuclear submarine to the Indian Ocean in December for a two-month anti-piracy patrol. The waters are home to shipping lanes carrying about 80 percent of the world’s seaborne oil.
China has at least 52 submarines in its fleet, including three nuclear-missile vessels and three operating on nuclear power, the U.S. Congressional Research Service said in July, citing Jane’s Fighting Ships 2013-2014 and previous editions.
India has also yet to build a single submarine of the 24 it’d planned starting in 1999, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told parliament today. Mishaps are also common: an explosion in August 2013 on a diesel-powered submarine, just months after the vessel returned from a $133 million refit at a Russian shipyard, was the worst-ever disaster for India’s submarine program.
Putin this week pledged to supply oil, weapons and nuclear power reactors to India. Modi, in turn, reassured the Russian leader that India opposes sanctions and asked Putin to build factories in the country to supply spare parts and components for Russian military equipment.
Russia will have to quadruple its current investments of $3.7 billion in India for the two countries to meet their bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025, Manturov said. Reaching that target will mean India breaking into Russia’s top five trading partners, up from the current rank of 21, he said.
The two nations said they recognized “the virtually unlimited opportunities for enhancing” their defense cooperation, including joint manufacturing and technology sharing, according to a joint statement yesterday. India allows foreign direct investment in the defense sector of up to 49 percent.