Russian delegation head questions Indian defence deals

"It is not fair. Arms sales in military technology projects are now all politics. Billions of dollars are paid for procurements without transfer of technology. It is improper, it is unfair," Komardin said. "I accept politics but fair should be fair. Russia is a strategic partner of India. We want to be dealt with as partners," he added.

The angry remarks came even as a team of the Russian Knights, an aerobatic team from Moscow, landed here this afternoon after a three-day delay that a member of his delegation confirmed was caused "by delay in internal security clearance". The issue was resolved only after Russian ambassador Alexander M. Kadakin requested national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon to intervene.

A spokesperson for the Russian Knights team said after landing in Bangalore: "We were held up in Delhi for legal issues raised by the Government of India and we could come here only because of diplomatic intervention."

The Knights had a similar problem in the UK in December and that was put down to incomplete paperwork by the Russians.

Komardin said India was also buying weapons and equipment from companies and countries that were also selling to Pakistan. The French, he said, had sold Agusta submarines to Pakistan and were selling Scorpene submarines to India. Lockheed Martin had sold Hercules aircraft to both Pakistan and India. Boeing, too, was selling to both Pakistan and India.

"But we do not do it, India does not want us to do it and we are a friend as a friend can be. We do not turn our backs to India."

Komardin put out figures that are not officially borne out. He alleged India had bought 10 C17 Globemaster aircraft for $10 billion though the longhaul strategic airlifters did not configure into the Indian military mindset.

"These aircraft are used for transAtlantic and transpacific requirements by the US military. What are they? Just big cargo planes. And you overlook the Il76 that you (India) have been using for 20 years!" he said.

The C17 contracted by India in 2009 through the US Pentagon's foreign military sales programme cost half the figure of $10 billion that Komardin quoted. The aircraft are bigger than the IL76 procured from Russia. A C17 can carry 75 tonnes and an IL76, loads of 50 tonnes each.

Even as Komardin was railing against the shift in Indian military procurement policies, Boeing was taking another team of Indian journalists in a C17 on a sortie over Bangalore's skies to give them a feel of the aircraft.

The C130J Hercules that the Indian Air Force has procured, he said, cannot accommodate the Russian supplied Smerch multi-barelled rocket launchers. This would tell on the Indian armed forces' operational abilities.

Komardin said Russia also thinks the choice of the Boeing-made Chinook helicopter for the IAF's heavylift needs was wrong.

"What is the Chinook compared to (the Russian) MI26 (that was also in the competition)? It is a baby. The Mi26 can lift the Chinook by the neck!" he said.

This is true. About three years ago, a Chinook helicopter of the US forces that went down in Afghanistan was salvaged by a chartered MI26. Photographs of the MI26 with the Chinook underslung have since been widely publicised.

The IAF has selected the Chinook for negotiations but the twin-rotor helicopter has not yet been contracted.

Komardin said Russia has $7 billion worth of arms transfer projects with India going currently, compared to the contracts that were signed with other countries. "I am pained that despite this, I find the Russian role in building India's defence industry diminished," he said.

Next year, it would be 50th anniversary since India first signed a licensed production agreement with (the former) Soviet Russia for the MiG 21 FL fighter aircraft. Russia now has more than two dozen licence production agreements going with India. Among the projects are land systems involving tanks and armoured personnel carriers for the army, aircraft such as the Sukhoi 30 MKi for the air force and the Gorshkov carrier for the navy.

Asked about erratic supplies of spares for Russianorigin equipment and delays in deliveries, Komardin fumed that was also the case with other suppliers. He said the French had delayed the delivery of Scorpene submarines to the Indian Navy by three years, as the delay of the Gorshkov carrier has been delayed. "But there is talk in India of imposing penalties on us and not on the French," he rued.

He said the equipment that India was procuring from Russia's competitors would not stand the test in harsh conditions in the subcontinent.

"Russian armament is robust for warfighting, not effete. If we will sell you a chair, we will sell you a chair that lasts, not decorate it with foam and leather that will not last," he said.

Komardin said that unlike its competitors, Russia did not want to publicise its defence deals with India "because we do not believe in disclosing Indian national secrets".

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