Does Russia see a role for India in maintaining Soviet-era weapons in Central Asia?


Russian state-run news agency TASS acknowledged reports of an agreement for India to produce and maintain weapons for the former Soviet bloc states in Central Asia.

India and Russia have reportedly discussed joint defense projects in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) following the 2 + 2 ministerial meeting on 6 December. A “non-paper” was exchanged, according to The Economic Times.

The state-run TASS news agency acknowledged the report on Thursday, citing an article by independent media outlet Nezavisimaya Gazeta that referred to reports in Indian media. According to the report, “a document has been signed stating, among other things, that the Indians will be able to supply the former Soviet republics with spare parts for these types of weapons which Russia and India jointly manufacture.”

In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the director of the Strategy and Technology Center, Ruslan Pukhov, said India’s increased diplomatic efforts with Russia in Central Asia may displease Beijing. “The ambitions of India, which sees itself as the world’s largest democracy in terms of population, can also cause inconvenience to Russia. New Delhi does not want to weaken Moscow’s position at all. But the regimes of Central Asia, dependent on Moscow economically and militarily, now have room for maneuver. They can now negotiate with us.

A report by the Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting this year, using data from the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI), showed that Central Asian countries were steadily diversifying their arms imports, although Russia remained the main supplier. No. 1 in all countries. with the exception of Turkmenistan (where the weapons mainly come from Turkey).

Competitors for arms supply are the United States (which accounted for 1.4% of Kazakhstan’s arms imports between 1991 and 2020) and China (which was Uzbekistan’s second-largest arms importer during the same period).

While China also deploys several Russian weapon systems, it also has a long history of reverse engineering and duplicating these, leading to greater self-sufficiency in defense at Moscow’s expense. Russia would seek to reduce China’s influence in Central Asia through a plan with India to jointly manufacture and maintain weapons for the bloc, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.

India’s trade with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was less than $ 2 billion in 2018. During the same period, China exchanged items worth 50 to 60 billion dollars.

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India is deploying several Soviet-era weapons, from the T-72 tank to the MiG-29 fighter jet. The national defense industry manufactures or assembles spare parts for these systems. Lately, there has been a further push to increase defense exports.


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