Last year, Russia and India were supposed to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their strategic partnership. But the coronavirus pandemic peremptorily interfered with the celebration plans, and all the anniversary events were canceled, including the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India.
But every cloud has a silver lining, as the saying goes, and the COVID-19 pandemic brought cooperation between the two countries to a brand new level. The nearest future will see India, which is often called the "pharmacy to the world" for its powerful pharmaceutical industry (this country is home to over 60% of the world's vaccine production capacity), begin the production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
And a while back it became known that later in the year, Russia will supply India with the first regiment of the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system. Deputy Head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Vladimir Drozhzhov made a statement to this effect at the just-completed Aero India 2021 exhibition. According to him, Indian specialists visited Russia in January this year and began training to work with the S-400 air defense system. Let's recall that in 2018, a contract worth $5.43 billion was signed for the supply of S-400 Triumph air defense systems to India. India is to receive five S-400 regimental sets under this contract. The delivery of these complexes to India is expected to be completed in the first half of 2025.
Moreover, New Delhi decided to purchase a MiG-29 fighter from Moscow and upgrade 59 more of these combat aircraft. The Russian side is currently waiting for the Indian Air Force headquarters to decide on tendering procedures. The FSMTC Deputy Head also noted that the Indian side was offered to get six Ka-31 helicopters and processing kits for the production of 12 additional Su-30MKI aircraft. Russia is awaiting New Delhi's decision to hold contract negotiations. According to Drozhzhov, India's overall order portfolio for Russian military equipment and weapons exceeds $14 billion.
It should be noted, however, that the United States is taking great pains to put spokes in the wheel of Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation and to oust Russia from the Indian arms market. For instance, Washington is strenuously pressuring New Delhi to cancel the contract for the purchase of Russian S-400 complexes, threatening it with sanctions. In this regard, we can recall a recent REUTERS interview with a spokesman for the American Embassy in New Delhi, in which he directly stated: "We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). CAATSA has no country-specific exceptions or privileges." Thus, Washington makes it clear to the Indian leadership that it intends to punish New Delhi for the purchase of the S-400s in no small way.
In their turn, the Indian authorities respond to the US threats with unequivocally stating that their country operates an independent foreign policy and makes decisions (including the purchase of S-400) based on their own needs in the area of defense and security, and no one is entitled to dictate terms. It is no secret that New Delhi considers military-technical cooperation with Russia one of the pillars of bilateral strategic partnership, while friendly relations with Moscow are deemed as an important factor in India's security.
The White House seems frosty about India's close strategic cooperation with Russia, which has been tested to destruction for more than one decade. Besides, Washington seems annoyed by its inability to win New Delhi over to its side in its confrontation with China, which gains power with every passing year both in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.
It should be emphasized here that Russia and India have recently strengthened cooperation not in the military-technical sphere alone, but also in other areas like pharmaceuticals and vaccination. And the coronavirus pandemic raging across the globe has contributed to this to a certain extent.
As Indian Ambassador to Russia Venkatesh Varma stated in his recent interview with Lenta.ru, Russia's already registered Sputnik V vaccine has been recognized in the international arena and proven successful. This being the case was confirmed by a recent publication in Britain's renowned Lancet medical journal. According to the Ambassador, India is currently running the third clinical trials phase for Sputnik V. The tests are due to end in a couple of weeks. Mr. Varma is confident that the Indian regulator will issue a relevant authorization right afterwards. New Delhi believes further cooperation in this area will prove vital both for the two countries and the rest of the world.
According to Venkatesh Varma, New Delhi's cooperation with Moscow is important in all the spheres, with strategic partnership being one of the most important areas of India's foreign policy. It is no coincidence that the ambassador recalled a recent speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who called relations between India and Russia "very close, very strategic, very special and very privileged." He used the word "very" four times. According to Mr. Varma, this reflects relations between India and Russia in the most accurate way. The ambassador has also noted that India is looking forward to the visit of President Vladimir Putin to his country this year, as soon as the epidemiological situation stabilizes.