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India in talks with Russia over $6 billion S-400 missile defense system deal – report

India is negotiating a contract for Russia’s S-400 air defense system in a deal worth over $6 billion, Indian media reported.

The 39,000 crore rupee deal (390 billion rupees, $6.1 billion) is for five S-400 systems, the Times of India reported. India wants to sign the deal in the 2018-19 financial year and for delivery to begin within two years.

“All the five S-400 systems, which can even take on medium-range ballistic missiles, apart from cruise missiles, will be delivered in 54 months. The force-multiplier will change the dynamics of air defence in the region,” an unnamed Indian defence ministry source said.

Russia’s S-400 Triumf long- and medium-range air defense missile system can use five different missile types to destroy aerial targets including planes and cruise and ballistic missiles at a range of 40 to 400 kilometers (25 to 250 miles) at altitudes of up to 30 km.

According to the report, India is focused on long-range interceptors. India may want to deploy the S-400 to counter threats from Pakistan’s short-range Nasr (Hatf-IX) nuclear missiles, ToI speculated.

Transfer of technology?

In December, Russia’s Rostec Corporation Director for International Cooperation Viktor Kladov said discussions then were focusing on technical details of the contract and negotiations were “at a very advanced stage.” The number of systems, training and transfer of technology were also being discussed.

Russia began delivery of six S-400 systems to China last week, but the initial shipment was damaged in transit and the vessel transporting it returned to port.

A source told Tass that the contract with China did not include technology transfer or licensed local production, and it is as yet unclear how this factors in to the deal with India.

NATO member Turkey has agreed to purchase the S-400. It is unclear how transfer of technology factors into the Turkey deal, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in October that Turkey could annul the S-400 deal if Moscow refuses to transfer technology. Deliveries to Turkey are likely to begin in late 2019 or early 2020.

Russia is also in talks to sell the S-400 system to Saudi Arabia, with both sides reportedly aiming to finalise the contract before the end of 2017, but no agreement has yet been announced.

India is the world’s largest defence importer and has signed several big-ticket defense deals since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014.

The majority of the defense deals are part of Modi’s ‘Make In India’ strategy to include significant transfer of technology in defense acquisition, encouraging foreign investment in joint ventures to produce military hardware in India. Some deals have stumbled recently over the Make in India and transfer of technology conditions, including an on-again off-again purchase of Spike ATGMs from Israel.

On January 16, India’s Defence Acquisition Council agreed to simplify the ‘Make II’ procedure, which defines guidelines for the development and manufacture of defence equipment by Indian corporations.

When signed, the S-400 contract will be among the largest Russia-India arms sales. Other significant deals include more than $12 billion for 272 Sukhoi 30MKI fighters, and that for INS Vikramaditya, the 1980s-era ex-Soviet aircraft carrier bought from Russia for $2.33 billion, with an additional $2 billion for 45 MiG-29Ks aircraft to operate from it.

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