India to gift Russia with MiG-21 jets during Putin’s visit; a wise symbolic gesture
New Delhi, Oct 3: Even as the world is waiting to see how the Narendra Modi government balances between India's old and new allies - Russia and the US - respectively over buying the S-400 missile system from Moscow, the two sides decided to do something symbolic to reiterate the values of the old friendship.
According to The Hindu, India will hand over three vintage MiG-21 supersonic fighter jets - something the former Soviet Union had started selling it during the days of Cold War and Non-Alignment. Though India is on way to gradually phase out these old machines, the nostalgia associated with them is still intact and it will used to recall the deep-rooted friendship between New Delhi and Moscow when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India for hus annual summit with Modi.
"Three MiG-21s are scheduled to be handed over to Russians based on a request from their Defence Minister to our Defence Minister. They comprise one Type 75 aircraft and two Type 77 aircraft," the Hindu report cited an official source as saying. All three planes are flightworthy and their crating and transportation costs will be borne by Russia.
The MiG-21 was developed in the decade of the 1950s and is the most produced supersonic aircraft, with around 12,000 units made by the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia besides India. The jets were being supplied to India in 1963 and domestic license production started in 1966. However, their first use happened during the 1971 Bangladesh war and they proved to be smarter than the rivals' machines.
India still has 120 MiG-21s in service though their days are numbered.
However, the preference by both the countries to opt this time for gifting the fighter planes shows that they are ready to show their solidarity against external challenges. More than their bilateral relations, India and Russia certainly have bigger stakes in terms of unilateralism - as members of both BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the United States, being an external force looking to maintain its dominance internationally, will look to weaken these platforms that have grown in the recent past as alternative platforms of security and economic cooperation.
Gifting the MiG-21 jets might not be more than just a symbolic gesture but in geopolitics, even such gestures can help in scoring some brownie points.