New Delhi: India has begun talks with Russia for a multi-million dollar deal to upgrade the army’s nearly 1,000 T-90 tanks, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
Under the deal, Russian firms will transfer the tank technology to Indian partners in a bid to shake off the armed forces’ over-dependence on Russian supplies, they said.
It aims to ensure India’s fleet of battle tanks will fire more accurately, move faster and provide better comfort to the crew, they said. The upgrade program would be undertaken by both the Indian ordnance factories and private sector firms.
India has inked contracts for about 1,450 T-90s from Russia since 2001, of which 124 were bought directly from Russia and the rest are being license-built at an Indian ordnance factory. They are the Indian Army’s main battle tanks deployed along the borders with Pakistan in the Rajasthan desert, Punjab and on the Jammu and Kashmir plains.
“India’s focus should be on Russians building Indian technology partners for upgrading the T-90s, as the Indian Army operates the largest fleet of these tanks in the world,” said K.J. Singh, a former Indian Army tank commander and independent analyst.
Russia is a major supplier of defence equipment to the India armed forces, with at least 60% of their arms inventory of Russian origin.
The talks for the T-90 upgrade program began earlier this year and gained pace at a two-day India-Russia industry conference hosted by the Indian ministry of defence in New Delhi on 17 and 18 March, the people said. Over 100 Russian and 150 Indian industry representatives joined the conference, including officials from Uralvagonzavod OAO, the original equipment manufacturer of T-90 tanks.
The India defence ministry spokesman Nitin Wakankar said he had no comment on the talks. A spokesman for Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms exporter, couldn’t immediately comment on the report. Read more…