India aims to conclude S-400 deal with Russia during Sitharaman’s Moscow visit

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New Delhi, March 4 (PTI): A nearly Rs 40,000 crore deal to procure S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia is yet to be concluded mainly due to differences over price which India would look to sort out during defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s upcoming visit to Moscow, official sources said.

India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly when China has been ramping up its military manoeuvring along the nearly 4,000 km Sino-India border.

In 2016, India and Russia had signed an agreement on ‘Triumf’ interceptor-based missile system which can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km. S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.

China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system and Moscow has already started delivery of unknown number of the S-400 missile systems to China.

The sources said Sitharaman will travel to Moscow within the next six weeks and she may push for sealing the long-pending deal at the earliest.

“Sealing the S-400 deal will be a major focus of Sitharaman’s visit to Russia,” said a source familiar with the deal, which would be one of biggest with Russia in recent years.

Negotiators from both countries have been in talks for over one and half years for the purchase of at least five systems of S-400 which are capable of firing three types of missiles, creating a layered defence.

The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system is manufactured by Almaz-Antey and has been in service in Russia since 2007.

The sources also said that no decision could be taken on the long-pending fifth-generation fighter jet project with Russia due to the high cost involved in it.

A high-level committee set up by the government to examine various aspects of the project had submitted its report last year and the defence ministry is likely to take a call on it soon.

In 2007, India and Russia had inked an inter-governmental pact for the FGFA project. In December 2010, India had agreed to pay USD 295 million (Rs 1,897 crore) towards the preliminary design of the fighter, which is called in India as the ‘Perspective Multi-role Fighter’.

However, the negotiations faced various hurdles in the subsequent years. In February 2016, India and Russia revived talks on the project after a clearance from the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar.

The issue may also figure during Sitharaman’s visit to Moscow.

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