India is close to inking a key defence logistics sharing pact which will place it as a rare nation that has such a strategic agreement with both the old cold war rivals – the US and Russia.
India and Russia are finalising a defence agreement that will simplify interoperability and enable military platforms to receive support and supplies across bases in both nations.
The Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support (ARLS) is being seen as an important practical step that could be signed at the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia in early September.
India has a defence logistics sharing agreement with its largest training partner, the USA. Similar agreement was also inked with France — another big ally for joint exercises — in 2018.
While the two countries have broadly agreed on the pact that will be most beneficial to the Navy as warships will get access to mutual ports and exclusive economic zones to refuel and pick up supplies, the final wordings of the agreement are being worked out.
A senior team led by additional secretary Jiwesh Nandan of the defence ministry finalised the terms of the pact during a visit to Moscow last month. The final pact will have enabling mechanisms to pick up supplies and spares at mutual ports and bases in what could be a cashless transaction, with the final accounts being settled at the end of the year.
The Indian Navy, with a significant strength of Russian origin warships, will be able to smoothly transit through for exercises or refits using the agreement while the air force will find it easier to deploy aircraft for joint exercises. Following the agreement, Russians could not only use ports like Mumbai and Visakhapatnam but would also be able to access airbases. India, of course, could do the same, when it came to Russian ports and airbases. This includes access to Northern route and ports in Russian part of Arctic. India is looking at an Arctic station in near future and Russia could be partner. Russia has also assured India access to energy resources in the vast Arctic region.
As part of Indo-Russian Indo-Pacific partnership an Indian warship could be anchored off Vladivostok during the summit. The two sides are planning to relaunch Chennai-Vladivostok shipping route as part of Indo-Pacific partnership.
The pact reflects to India’s willingness to continue nurturing defence ties with Russia. During recent meetings with other partners India emphasised on the point that Russia had helped when no other country was willing to offer weapons and equipment.
Russia and India have devised a new mechanism which will allow payments for multi-billion dollar defence deals to be made using their own national currencies, as per a Russian source and two Indian sources said to be familiar with the matter.
Settlements in rubles and rupees are designed specifically to allow Moscow and Delhi to skirt the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a 2017 US legislative measure designed to slap severe restrictions on Russia’s ability to sell arms abroad.
The sources say that the new arrangement would facilitate India’s purchase of four Russian Talwar-class guided missile frigates, worth about $2 billion. Late last year, India’s security committee approved the procurement of the frigates, with two of them to be purchased directly from Russia for about $950 million, and two more to be built in India later under a separate deal.