Russia and India signed a contract for procurement of 6 lakh AK-203 rifles

India and Russia on Monday concluded a much-awaited 5,100-crore deal for the joint production of more than 600,000 AK-203 assault through Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt Ltd, under the military-technical cooperation arrangement for 2021-31.

India and Russia on December 6 in New Delhi signed an agreement on a programme extending Military Technical Cooperation for the next 10 years and also finally inked a Rs 5,124 Crore ($679.4 Million) contract for 6,01,427 7.63x39mm assault rifles AK-203 for the Indian Army.

The Programme for Military Technical Cooperation is the blueprint which drives the significant Defence trade between the two traditional partners.

These were part of four agreements and protocols signed at the 20th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military & Military Technical Cooperation in New Delhi. The meeting was co-chaired by Defennce Ministers Rajnath Singh and Sergey Shoigu.

The four agreements signed were:

  1. Protocol on Amending the Agreement between India and Russia on cooperation in the field of Kalashnikov Series Small Arms Manufacturing dated February 18, 2019.
  2. Contract for procurement of quantity 6,01,427 AK-203 Assault Rifles 7.63X39mm through Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited.
  3. Agreement on Program for Military Technical Cooperation from 2021-2031.
  4. Protocol of the 20th IRIGC-M&MTC (Signed by the two Defence Ministers).

These agreements were signed ahead of the maiden India-Russia 2+2 Ministerial-level Dialogue and the annual Summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin. The 2+2 Meeting between the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers of the two sides has been initiated along the pattern of similar dialogue series between India and the US.

Significantly, the two sides failed to clinch long-pending, multi-billion dollar deals for 200 Ka-226 Light Utility Helicopters and 5,000 Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) missiles and 250 launchers, highlighting an impasse.

In recent years, India has diversified arms procurement with an emphasis on self-reliance through indigenisation, reducing reliance on its traditional arms supplier Russia.

The signing of the AK-203 assault rifles contract was preceded by an amendment of an earlier agreement, reducing the procurement numbers from 750,000 to 6,01,427 and reportedly doing away with the royalty clause. The rifles will be manufactured by Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited, a joint venture between the erstwhile Ordnance Factory Board (OFB, now Advanded Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) and Munitions India Limited (MIL) of India and Rosboronexport (RoE) and concern Kalashnikov of Russia.

At the inaugural 2+2 Meeting between Rajnath Singh and S Jaiskankar of India and Sergey Shoigu and Sergey Lavrov of Russia, India made a strong pitch for categorical Russian support against Chinese aggression.

“The extra-ordinary militarization and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and the completely unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown in several challenges. India is confident of overcoming these challenges with its strong political will and inherent capability of its people. Recognizing that its development needs are colossal and that its defence challenges are legitimate, real and immediate, India seeks partners who are sensitive and responsive to India’s expectations and requirements,” Rajnath Singh said in his remarks at the meeting, calling for closer military ties with Russia.

“From Ministry of Defence, we have urged for greater military-technical collaboration, advanced research, co-development and co-production of defence equipment leading to self-reliance of India. Separately, we proposed greater engagements in Central Asia and the Indian Ocean region,” Singh said, expressing the hope that “Russia will remain a major partner for India in these changing circumstances”, and that India-Russia cooperation will bring “peace, prosperity and stability in the region”. He reiterated the centrality of Defence cooperation as one of the most important pillars of the bilateral partnership.

Singh also described the maiden India-Russia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue as “a special initiative, taken by the leaders of the two countries, which signals the higher relevance and necessity for cooperation between the two countries”.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr G Satheesh Reddy attended the meeting between the two Defence Ministers.

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