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Discussions concerning a prospective move away from India’s historical reliance on Russian defence equipment have been triggered by the country’s significant investments in diverse American military equipment. Security officials, analysts, and experts emphasise that this shift is focused primarily on developing India’s internal weapons sector and is not just about moving towards Western partners.

India has made tremendous efforts to diversify its defence purchase strategy as the top importer of weaponry in the world. Although collaborative manufacture or technology transfer clauses are frequently included in key military purchases, these agreements are not only applicable to alliances with Western countries. The situation surrounding Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis has given New Delhi more motivation to strengthen its defence sector and lessen its reliance on imports, a sentiment heightened by disruptions in military supply.

India has purchased weaponry for more than $60 billion over the past 20 years, with roughly $39 billion coming from Russia. However, India’s dedication to self-sufficiency is symbolised by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s ambition of ordering more than $100 billion worth of weapons from the domestic arms sector during the following ten years.

This shifting strategy was demonstrated by the recent purchases of U.S. defence products made during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington. While the agreements India has made with the U.S. for GE fighter jet engines and conversations about purchasing MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones underscore growing relations, they also support India’s goal of becoming self-sufficient. In line with Modi’s “Make in India” strategy and the possibility of assembling and servicing SeaGuardians on Indian territory, the jet engine deal places an emphasis on potential collaborative production.

These changes reflect a friendlier attitude from the United States, which is actively facilitating India’s access to military technologies. The American ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, admits this change and points out that the U.S. shares more technology with India than it does with some of its closest allies. Complete autonomy will take some time to achieve, though, due to the complicated environment of international defence technology sharing, and strict U.S. restrictions now place a cap on the amount of technology transfer.

Even if India has made notable efforts to work with the United States on defence issues, this does not mean that its relationships with Russia will immediately end. According to experts, a thorough move away from Russian dependence is a lengthy process that takes several years. Thus, even though the path ahead is complicated and multidimensional, India’s strategic push towards defence independence remains a continuous and well-thought-out attempt.

For its conventional weapons, India mostly uses Russian technology. The most promising area for U.S.-India cooperation, according to Arzan Tarapore, an Indian security expert at Stanford University, is “new systems that India doesn’t already have.”

India’s main goal is to close the technology gap with China, its more advanced adversary with whom it has a tense relationship. China’s tight relationship with India’s longtime foe, Pakistan, complicates matters further.

The impact of Russia’s participation in Ukraine, which has impeded Moscow’s capacity to deliver contracts for guns and equipment, is one difficulty India is experiencing.

Recent correspondence from the Indian air force to a parliamentary commission suggested that there may be delays in the Russian supplies of spare parts for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter aircraft. Delays have also been experienced with a key purchase, which is thought to be the final two of the five S-400 air defence systems that were purchased from Russia for around $5.5 billion in 2018.

Defence officials underlined that even these deliveries, which India had anticipated receiving from Russia in the upcoming years of two nuclear-powered attack submarines, may be delayed.

India’s resolve to lessen its reliance on Russia and pursue a diversified sourcing strategy for its arms purchases has been strengthened by these difficulties. The goal is to prevent being overly dependent on any one country.

The strategy adopted by India calls for the acquisition of French fighter jets, Israeli drones, American jet engines, and maybe German submarines. The amount of Russian military equipment that India uses will progressively decline as a result of these acquisitions, but experts anticipate that this shift will take at least two decades.

Former senior Pentagon official Bill Greenwalt, who was in charge of industrial policy, suggested that the time when the United States and Russia dominated the global defence market and had complete control over defence technology was gradually coming to an end. However, the evolution of a substitute for this dynamic continues.

Due to the strict U.S. export control system for armaments, which places restrictions on knowledge sharing and India’s potential to improve the systems it purchases, Greenwalt speculated that India would experience displeasure. He predicted that India would likely seek out partnerships with Western nations that provide technology transfer with less restrictive usage policies.

Comprehensive technology exchange is not possible because exports to India must comply with the strict U.S. International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and because the two countries don’t have a treaty alliance similar to the AUKUS arrangement.

The visit of Prime Minister Modi to the United States has been heralded as a turning point in bilateral ties because of the agreements reached that go beyond defence and cover crucial minerals, electronics, space exploration, and artificial intelligence.

While joining the US, Japan, and Australia in the QUAD alliance, India continues to have a close relationship with Russia, which is strengthened by this alliance. Derek Grossman, a defence expert at the Rand Corporation, claims that because of the existing India-Russia partnership, the United States will be cautious when transferring military technology with India.

Grossman emphasised that the U.S. will hold doubts about the potential repercussions for Russian interests even if India is successful in making a gradual transition away from Russian dependency over the coming decades. He pointed out that although India is likely to maintain its current connections with Russia, its approach is opportunistic and open to what the United States is prepared to provide.

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