Russia to speed up defence deals: Rajnath Singh
Moscow, June 23: The relations between India and Russia are one of "Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership" and the ongoing military contracts between the two sides will be maintained and in a number of cases will be taken forward in a shorter time, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday.
Singh, who arrived here on a three-day visit on Tuesday at the invitation of the Russian Ministry of Defence to attend the 75th Anniversary of Victory Day Parade, said his visit to Moscow is the first foreign visit from India of an official delegation after the COVID pandemic.
"This is a sign of our special friendship. Despite all the difficulties of the pandemic, our bilateral relations are keeping good contacts at the various levels," Singh said while addressing the media here.
“India-Russia relations are one of Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. Our defence relationship is one of its important pillars," he said.
The minister reviewed bilateral defence relationship with Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov who visited him in his hotel, despite the restrictions of the pandemic.
"My discussions were very positive and productive. I have been assured that ongoing contracts will be maintained and not just maintained, in a number of cases will be taken forward in a shorter time. All our proposals have received positive responses from the Russian side. I am fully satisfied with my discussions," Singh said, indicating the timely delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems to India.
In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.
Last year, India made the first tranche of payment of around USD 800 million to Russia for the missile systems.
Moscow was to begin the delivery of the system by the second half of next year. Russia has been one of India's key suppliers of arms and ammunition. However, it has been a long-standing grievance of armed forces that supply of critical spares and equipment from Russia takes a long time affecting maintenance of military systems procured from that country.
“I can say with confidence that the traditional friendship between India and Russia remains strong. Our mutual interests are solid and we look to future cooperation in the spirit of our special friendship,” Singh said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese media on Tuesday speculated that Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe "will very likely meet" his Indian counterpart Singh in Moscow over border tensions between the two countries.
Sources familiar with the matter confirmed to the Global Times that since Wei and Singh are attending the Russian military parade in Moscow on Wednesday, the two leaders may meet. However, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said that Singh will not meet his Chinese counterpart in Moscow.
Singh's visit to Russia comes in the midst of the escalating border standoff between India and China, particularly after the killing of 20 Indian Army personnel by Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley on June 15.
Russia has been in touch with both India and China following their border row and officials did not rule out discussion on the matter during Singh's meetings in Moscow.
Singh said he was looking forward to participating in the 75th Victory Parade wherein an Indian Military contingent will be marching in the Red Square on Wednesday.
"It is a great honor…This is a sign of everlasting friendship between the armed forces of both our countries,” the minister said. "I convey my greetings to the friendly people of Russia, especially the veterans, who have contributed so much to our common security," Singh said as he paid tribute to the sacrifice of the Russian people for victory in the Second World War.
He said Indian soldiers participated in the war effort in the millions and suffered immense casualties. “Many of them were part of the war efforts to provide assistance to the Soviet Army,” he added.
Singh also said that he was looking forward to the visit of President Vladimir Putin to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this year.