Russia faces tough competition at India’s DefExpo 2010

The world’s top arms producers have descended on New Delhi with their eyes on lucrative contracts up for grabs at India’s main arms fair.

India has been spending big on weaponry imports in recent years and with more than 600 companies present, India's number one supplier, Russia, is facing tough international competition. Russia has had arms contracts with India worth around $1.5 billion each year, but ties between the countries’ arms industries do not stop there as Moscow strives to stay on top.

Ever since Nikita Khrushchev advised India to “shout across the Himalayas if you ever need us,” military cooperation between India and Russia has rarely lost momentum. In the 21st century, this relationship has manifested in the joint development of new weaponry, with both countries expected to sign a contract within a month to manufacture a fifth-generation jet fighter.

An economic slowdown and recession may have hit the globe, but there are no signs of it visible at DefExpo 2010. Held every two years in New Delhi, all the top global weapons manufacturers attend the event, because the $11 billion that India spends every year on foreign military supplies is up for grabs.

The Minister of State for Defense of India believes that the atmosphere in India is now more and more conducive to attracting foreign investment in defense research and development. “We’re looking for partnerships and co-development arrangements and formation of joint venture in critical technical areas,” said Dr. Pallam Raju, and concluded that the “defense expo, which is a one-stop shop, is an ideal platform for doing business in defense.”


Brahmos cruise missiles (AFP Photo / Emmanuel Dunand)
In recent years, Russia has been competing with the US and Israel. However, Moscow is increasingly moving towards closer cooperation with India on new weapons systems.

”India is the number one partner for the Russian defense industry, since it is not only the volume that is exported, it is also the quality of the equipment and scientific technical potential that we put in India’s industrial military complex within this cooperation,” shared Victor Komardin, Deputy Director General of Russia’s Rosoboronexport arms corporation.

One of the biggest success stories is the Brahmos, the only supersonic cruise missile in the world. Both countries are equal partners in this project, contributing their own areas of expertise.

”We are very strong in guidance technology and software,” states Dr. Sivathanu Pillai, CEO of Brahmos Aerospace, “whereas Russia is very strong in propulsion and cruise missile technology. So having technology available in both, and respecting each other in trust, we formed a joint venture.”

The world is at India’s doorstep, keen to sell its weaponry, but for the Indian military it seems the preferred weapons of choice are Russian, and the wide range of equipment and armaments that they are collaborating on underlines the special relationship that India and Russia share.