The Ukrainian and Russian military-industrial complexes are engaged in a fierce competition for India’s arms market. India, which represents 12 percent of global arms purchases, is critical for both countries, and their rivalry will only intensify.
New Delhi is aware of Russia’s unreliability and unpredictability. India understands that Western sanctions have wreaked havoc on the Russian defense industry and seeks to diversify its arms imports, signing a growing number of contracts with NATO countries.
For India, Ukraine is becoming a vital partner. New Delhi has chosen to increase its reliance on Ukraine in the repair and modernization of Soviet weapons, which constitute an essential part of all armaments of the Armed Forces of India.
New Delhi’s decision to partner with Ukraine is a consequence of Russia’s inability to fulfill part of its Indian contracts because of the breakdown of technical cooperation between Russia and Ukraine after Russian aggression in Crimea and the Donbass. Moscow’s lack of access to the Ukrainian defense industry is costing the Russian defense sector dearly.
The Kremlin is extremely concerned about this, since the weakening of its position on the Indian market is not only a loss of profitable contracts, but also of geopolitical influence in an extremely important region. Russia’s reduced presence in India — resulting in part from Ukrainian defense competition — has generated a vacuum that will inevitably be replaced by U.S. influence.
Russia has failed to increase the quality of its weapons systems and provides regular deliveries of defective products. (For example, more than half of the 210 Su-30MK fighter jets bought by Russia are inactive due to maintenance problems).
As a result, Moscow chooses to compete unfairly and unethically.
Using a range of surreptitious hybrid tactics, the Kremlin is trying to discredit Ukraine as a reliable and honest partner. Russian propaganda and information campaigns are regularly carried out to spread the false narrative that Ukraine and its military-industrial complex produce defective products, are massively corrupt and engage in illicit arms trafficking around the world. This information warfare is conducted not only in the Indian and Ukrainian press, but also in the international media, including American media, as well as in the official bulletins of Russian propaganda such as RT, Sputnik and others.
Russia spreads this false narrative to think tanks, nongovernmental organizations and public opinion leaders, who serve as “useful idiots” in the hands of Russian special services.
Yet, despite Russia’s attacks and the incredible damage inflicted on Ukrainian-Indian military-technical cooperation, the Ukrainian defense industry is steadily expanding its presence on the Indian armaments market — replacing Russia.
As of now, there are 400 contracts between India and Ukraine. The most promising areas of cooperation include:
- Modernizing of Indian tanks and armored vehicles and equipping them with guided missiles.
- Modernizing Indian radars and air defense assets.
- Designing and manufacturing Indian ships of various classes.
- Supplying components for existing Indian ships and submarines.
- Maintaining Indian aircraft and helicopters.
- Implementing joint Ukrainian-Indian research and development projects.
Because of Russia’s increasingly cozy relations with China and Pakistan, India needs a strong external ally, and for this reason it is developing a strategic partnership with the United States. This process is also driven by New Delhi’s interest in supporting U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and its concern for China’s assertive policies in the South China Sea.