Conflicting reports have emerged from either side regarding India’s purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia.
Negotiations between New Delhi and Moscow have been going on for some time. The S-400 is an advanced missile system that would significantly improve India’s air defense capabilities, according to Sputnik News.
India says deal signed, Russia says it’s not
Indian Minister of State Rao Inderjit Singh said Wednesday that a contract has been signed. “We’ve signed that agreement,” Singh said.
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Journalists then asked when the missile systems would be delivered. “It’s hard to say, but as soon as possible,” the minister said. Singh is currently attending an international security forum in Moscow.
However a senior Russian official claims that nothing has been signed between the two nations. “The contract has not been signed yet,” said Sergey Chemezov, the head of Russian state-owned technology giant Rostec. There has so far been no comment from the Russian Defense Ministry.
The S-400 system carries three different kinds of missiles. As a result it can destroy airborne targets over short and extremely long range, and is able to track and destroy fast-moving objects including ballistic and cruise missiles.
S-400 system in high demand
It is the most advanced air defense system produced by Russia, and is currently only used by the Russian military. China and India are expected to be the first foreign buyers of the S-400.
According to previous reports the Indian military wants to buy five S-400 battalions from Russia. However it appears that Indian minister Singh jumped the gun in declaring that a deal had been signed.
Despite strong international interest in the system, officials are prioritizing Russian military needs. Russian President Vladimir Putin is intent on flexing his muscles on the international stage and has made military modernization a priority.
“There are many of those who want it [the S-400 system] but the case is that we are not able to supply everyone with it and therefore we will not deliver it to everyone because the priority is the Russian army, however, the negotiations with China and India are underway,” Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s aide for military-technical cooperation, told the Russian Izvestia newspaper.
Russia continues to export huge amounts of weapons
Interest in Russian military equipment was piqued after its successful use in the campaign in Syria. Russian forces carried out a number of impressive attacks, including highly-accurate missile launches from warships hundreds of kilometers from their targets.
While it would have been easier for Russian forces to use assets closer to the targets, many commentators believe that Putin wanted to send a warning to Russia’s enemies. By demonstrating the sophistication of the country’s weaponry it is thought that Putin wanted to underline the fact that Russia is still an important player on the international stage.
A weapons demonstration could also serve to drive orders for military forces from around the world. Arms sales are one way that Russia is attempting to balance its budget during a time of low oil and gas prices.
The Kremlin recently agreed a deal to sell S-300 air defense systems to Iran after the lifting of sanctions. Discussions lasted for an incredibly long time regarding the deal, which has now been signed.
Russia remains one of the world’s largest arms exporters and the on-off deal with India would be the latest in a string of deals between the long-term allies.