New Delhi: Two days ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi for the 21st Annual Bilateral Summit, the Indian government on Saturday approved the plan for production of over five lakh AK-203 assault rifles at Korwa in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, in partnership with Russia that will make Uttar Pradesh a defence production hub in the country, sources confirmed.
While this deal will almost certainly be inked during the presidential visit, a long-awaited mutual defence logistics support agreement with Moscow may also be inked during the visit. Another keenly-watched aspect will be India acquiring the S-400 missiles from Russia which sources said shows the “strategic autonomy” and independent foreign policy that New Delhi has been exercising since India faces the prospect of US sanctions though New Delhi is hoping for a waiver from Washington on that score.
Several pacts in defence, trade, energy and other sectors will be inked on Monday after talks between President Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday evening as well as the 2+2 talks at the foreign and defence ministerial level between the two nations earlier in the day on Monday morning. While the situation in Afghanistan is expected to be discussed between the two leaders, sources said India's relationship with China (amid the strains in Sino-Indian ties) is also expected to be discussed with Mr Putin. It may be recalled that Russia had played a key role in informally brokering peace between the two Asian giants last year. Both India and Russia are also expected to take a tough stand jointly against terrorism, particularly by Pakistan-based terror groups. After the formal talks, both leaders will further converse over dinner following which President Putin will head back to Moscow late on Monday evening.
Government sources on Saturday said, “In an endeavour to provide a big boost to self-reliance in defence manufacturing in India, the government has approved the plan for production of over five lakh AK-203 assault rifles at Korwa, Amethi. It reflects the ever increasing paradigm shift in defence acquisition from buy (global) to Make in India. This endeavour will be done in partnership with Russia and reflects the deepening partnership between the two countries in the defence sector.”
Government sources added, “The 7.62 X 39mm caliber AK-203 Rifles will replace the in-service INSAS Rifle inducted over three decades back. AK-203 assault rifles, with an effective range of 300 meters, are light weight, robust and easy to use modern assault rifles with proven technology that will enhance the combat potential of soldiers to adequately meet present and envisaged operational challenges. They will enhance the operational effectiveness of the Indian Army in counterinsurgency/counter Terrorism operations. The project will be implemented by a special purpose joint venture called Indo-Russian Rifles Private Ltd (IRRPL). It has been created with erstwhile OFB (now Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) and Munitions India Limited (MIL)) of India and Rosoboronexport (RoE) and concern Kalashnikov of Russia.”
Government sources further said, “The project will provide business opportunities to various MSMEs and other defence industries for supply of raw material and components, which will lead to generation of new employment opportunities. The project marks a significant stride towards making UP a key contributor in the ascendent defence manufacturing prowess of India.”
Monday morning will see the inaugural 2+2 talks between the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the two nations. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will first hold a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will hold a separate meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu. This will be followed by the 2+2 meeting.
Other sources on Saturday said trade, energy and connectivity are also an important focus in bilateral ties. Eleven Governors from the Russian Far-east provinces are also expected to be invited for the forthcoming Vibrant Gujarat Summit. Bilateral trade targets between the two nations were earlier revised to an enhanced target of US$ 50 billion by 2025 after the original target of US$ 30 billion was met in 2018 itself. The Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor connectivity project is also expected to be 30 percent cheaper and 40 percent shorter compared to the Suez canal route.