Ukrainian and Russian defense companies have long been engaged in a fierce competition for India’s arms market which represents 12% of global arms purchases.
India is aware of Russia’s unreliability and unpredictability as Western sanctions have wreaked havoc on the Russian defense industry. Therefore, India seeks to diversify its arms imports, signing more contracts with NATO Allies, according to a column on Defense News by Pavlo Bаrbul, CEO of SpetsTechnoExport, a subsidiary of Ukrainian defense company Ukroboronprom
For India, Ukraine is becoming a vital partner as New Delhi has chosen to increase its reliance on Kyiv in repair and modernization of Soviet weapons, which constitute an essential part of Indian forces' armaments, according to te official.
New Delhi’s decision to partner with Ukraine is a consequence of Russia’s inability to fulfill part of its Indian contracts because of the breakdown of technical cooperation between Russia and Ukraine following the start of Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbas. Moscow’s lack of access to the Ukrainian defense industry capacities is costing the Russian defense sector dearly.
Russia’s reduced presence in India — resulting in part from Ukrainian defense competition — has generated a vacuum that will inevitably be replaced by U.S. influence.
Russia has failed to increase the quality of its weapons systems and provides regular deliveries of defective products. (For example, more than half of the 210 Su-30MK fighter jets bought by Russia are inactive due to maintenance problems), according to Pavlo Barbul.
As a result, Moscow chooses to compete unfairly and unethically.
Using a range of surreptitious hybrid tactics, the Kremlin is trying to discredit Ukraine as a reliable and honest partner. Russian propaganda and information campaigns are a regular tactic aimed to spread the false narrative claiming that Ukraine produces defective products, remains a massively corrupt state and engages in illicit arms trafficking around the world.
Read alsoUkraine exports $400 mln in military products to India in three years – UkroboronpromThis hybrid information warfare is being waged not only in the Indian and Ukrainian press, but also in the international media, including in the U.S, as well as through some official headliners of Russian propaganda such as RT and Sputnik.
Russia spreads this false narrative to think tanks, nongovernmental organizations and public opinion leaders, who serve as “useful idiots” in the hands of Russian special services.
Yet, despite Russia’s attacks and the incredible damage inflicted on Ukrainian-Indian military-technical cooperation, the Ukrainian defense industry is steadily expanding its presence on the Indian armaments market — replacing Russia.
Read alsoRussia smearing Ukraine defense sector in attempt to win back Indian marketAs of now, there are 400 contracts between India and Ukraine. The most promising areas of cooperation include: modernizing Indian tanks and armored vehicles and equipping them with guided missiles; modernizing Indian radars and air defense assets; designing and manufacturing Indian warships of various types; supplying components for the operating Indian fleet and submarines; maintaining Indian planes and helicopters; and implementing joint Ukrainian-Indian research and development projects.
Considering Russia’s increasingly cozy ties with China and Pakistan, India needs a strong external ally, and for this reason it is developing a strategic partnership with the United States. Since 2011, the United States has successfully realized its interests in the Indian market, becoming a top arms supplier — after Russia — for the Indian Army. During his last visit to India, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis emphasized the readiness of the United States to build on this cooperation, which was echoed by Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Read alsoUkraine, India defense industries enhancing cooperationIt is premature to conclude that Russia will lose the Indian market. Because of inertia and the significant proportion of Soviet and Russian armaments used by the Armed Forces of India, Moscow could remain India’s principal partner for a long time, albeit steadily losing its share of the market.
By leveraging the capacity of the Ukrainian defense industry to displace Russia in some areas, the United States could generate better conditions for American defense firms in India and accelerate its strategic partnership with the country. Today, Russia is substantially limited in finding new partners in military-technical cooperation. As China advances its own defense industry and reduces dependence on Russia, India will become the major remaining foreign client of the Russian military industry.
The Kremlin’s loss of the Indian market will significantly limit Russia ability to develop and manufacture new weapons, according to Pavlo Barbul.
"The United States has an interest in this. Ukraine has an interest in this. They must work together to achieve these joint interests and undercut Russia’s ability to wage wars around the world," the official concluded.