Most Indian helicopters are also coming from Russia, including the Mi-17 utility helicopters, the Mi-35 attack helicopters, the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters and the Kamov anti-submarine warfare helicopters. Last but not least, many Indian missiles are also "made in Russia": the R-77, R-37, the R-73 air-to-air missiles, the Kh-59, Kh-35, the Kh-31 air-to-surface missiles, the KAB laser-guided bombs which are operated from the Su-30 MKI and the famous S-400 Triumf air defence system.
Why Russia is India's number one weapons supplier
Certainly, after the demise of the Soviet Union, India initiated some rapprochement with the US, but increased diplomacy did not translate into substantial supply diversification for Indian arms imports: between 1997 and 2016, about three fourth of foreignly purchased weapons were still coming from Russia. Many reasons explain why Russia has been the preferred source for India's defense purchases over the past twenty years.
Russia has never imposed sanctions or embargoes
New Delhi fears sanctions from the West, and especially from the US. This began in the 1960s, a time when India bought MIGs for the first time, after the US ended all arms sales to India and Pakistan because of the 1965 and 1971 wars. By contrast, India never apprehended any sanction from Russia. When India conducted a series of nuclear tests, in 1974 and 1998 respectively, the US imposed sanctions on New Delhi but Russia did not.. Similarly, the USSR agreed to ship heavy water for its nuclear reactors after the US and Canada suspended shipment for the Tarapur plant in reaction to the 1974 test.
The financial factor
Historically, the USSR did not often ask India for immediate payment after weapon delivery, nor did it request itin any hard currency. It supplied India with $35 billion in equipment between 1960-1990 "without immediate payment, and that too to be paid in Indian rupees at concessionary interest". More importantly, Soviet and later Russian equipment remains available at a reasonable price - "at comparable level of Western quality with 30-35% lower cost". For example, when we compare the Sukhoi-30MKI (Su-30) fighter, the backbone of the Indian air force, with the newly acquired Dassault Rafales, we see that the former has a higher maximum speed and service ceiling than the latter, albeit with lesser range available. However, the Su-30s can be produced at almost a fraction of the Rafales' cost, as evident from the fact that in 2018, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited proposed supplying 40 additional fighters at one-third of the cost of the Rafales.
Exclusive access to the most sophisticated Russian technologies
Moscow has created a trust-based relation with India in the military domain. Since the Cold War, it has been supplying India with high tech material it denies to other countries. Both the S-400 and the Su-35 fighter jet are cases in point. This is not a new development. The USSR had already loaned for a period of three years between 1988 and 1991. This lease was the first time any country had ever done so for another. However, when this occurred, India got sophisticated systems but not the state-of-the-art and transfers of technology - whereas such transfers occurred routinely for less advanced equipment.
Technical assistance, transfers of technology and co-development
While India has for decades attempted to develop a military industry of its own, Russia has assisted the country more than any other in this direction. For example, it has helped it build factories to assemble licensed MiG-21 and MiG-23/27 fighters, as well as to repair T-72 tanks. Comparatively, Russia has been more open than the West to the transfer of technologies in the framework of joint ventures.
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