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Tanks, Ships, and Assault Rifles: India Still Buys Most of its Weapons from Russia

Sebastien Roblin

Since the 1960s, India has procured the larger part of its armaments from Moscow, and weapons systems such as the Mi-4 helicopter, T-55 tank and SS-2 Styx anti-ship missile have played a decisive role in India’s military conflicts.

As alliances shifted in the post-Cold War era, Washington has heavily courted New Delhi as part of an effort to counter-balance China’s rise as superpower. This has led India to purchase U.S. military systems such as P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes and Apache attack helicopters.

Moreover, India withdrew from an ambitious program to jointly develop an India-specific variant of Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighter in 2018. Moscow has also indicated a new willingness to export arms to India’s rival, Pakistan. And in the wake of Moscow’s seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Washington has passed the CAATSA act which threatens sanctions on countries that make major military purchases from Russia.

But despite these negative factors, and the Modi administration’s insistence that foreign imports come with a domestic manufacturing component on Indian soil, in reality Russia by far remains India’s dominant arms supplier going into the 2020s, accounting for 62 percent of Indian arms imports in the previous five years according to SIPRI.

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